HANCOCK COUNTY — Rose Langford and Denna Gundrum believe they are part of what makes Hancock County unique.
Langford owns a little clothing boutique in Fortville where she sells one-of-a-kind jewelry made by sexual assault survivors; Gundrum is a florist who operates a gift shop on Greenfield’s west side that’s stocked with seasonal knick-knacks to complement any arrangement.
They say the dollars spent at their independent establishments — What A Girl Wants and Penny’s Florist, respectfully — do more than just employ their neighbors and keep food on their own tables at home. They help fund the local soup kitchen, pay for prizes at school carnivals, sponsor local youth baseball teams and help keep Hancock County thriving.
As the Christmas shopping season kicks off, small business leaders across the county are encouraging residents to look to the little shops and boutiques in their backyards to complete their holiday wish lists.
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This year, dozens of small Hancock County shops have banded together to offer sales and specials on Small Business Saturday, the national shopping holiday that follows Thanksgiving and Black Friday, in hopes of stirring up excitement about local storefronts and all they have to offer.
These shop owners say spending money at independent, locally-owned businesses betters the community: for every $100 dollars spent at a local business, $68 is returned back to the local community compared to the $43 returned by big box stores, one economic study, commissioned by Chicago-based small-business organization Andersonville, showed.
Small Business Saturday, coined by American Express in 2010, aims to steer buyers toward locally owned stores following the Black Friday spending phenomenon that lands crowds in the aisles of their competitors. In 2015, more than 95 million people across the nation participated in Small Business Saturday, generating billions of dollars in revenue for local economies, according to statistics kept by the credit card company.
The Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fortville-McCordsville Chamber of Commerce and Greenfield Main Street are among the organizations that have teamed up with American Express this year to become “neighborhood champions,” serving as ambassadors of the shop-local movement.
Additionally, more than 20 Greenfield businesses have banded together to offer discounts Saturday and throughout December in hopes of keeping the holiday traffic steady all month long.
This weekend, they’ll set up two welcome centers — one in the Creative Arts and Event Center, 2 W. Main St., Greenfield; the other in Penny’s Florist, 1311 W. Main St., Greenfield — where shoppers can collect free gifts provided by American Express and brochures detailing the sales offered around Greenfield, said Shelley Swift, program manager for Greenfield Main Street, the business organization helping coordinate the endeavor.
The goal is to inspire community members to use the shops that line Hancock County’s main streets before heading out of town to make purchases, not just at the holidays but all year round, Swift said. The products offered by these businesses are often different from what’s offered at national chains, and the sales there help keep the county’s business community booming, she said.
Like many of her fellow resident business owners’ shops, Langford’s store will be open to shoppers Saturday for what she’s calling a Christmas in November sale.
As a two-time cancer survivor, Langford said she wanted her company to be more than just a business. So, What A Girl Wants, 230 S. Main St., Fortville, carries only “products with purpose,” as she calls them; a portion of the profits generated by the blouses and leggings, scarfs and necklaces she stocks benefit various philanthropic organizations around the country.
The jewelry, for example, comes from a company called Laminin and is handmade by American women who were victims of sex trafficking; the scarves and booties are made by Grace and Lace and fund the building of orphanages in India.
Those missions set the tone for Langford’s business and set her company apart from others in the area, she said.
“When you have excellent products, you get excellent customers,” Langford said. “You have to have passion for what you do and for every person who walks through that door. If you aren’t community-oriented, you aren’t going to make it.”
Community organizations and charities also benefit from the traffic at small businesses, local leaders say. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, more than 60 community members came to Penny’s Florist seeking donations for various causes, many of which owner Gundrum said she was able to support because her neighbors first supported her.
The Hancock Hope House homeless shelter, the Kenneth Butler Soup Kitchen and Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE) are just a few of the Hancock County nonprofits Gundrum aids with the profits from her business each year, she said.
She hopes residents will keep that charity mentality in mind as they head out to do their holiday shopping this year, she said.
“Supporting local businesses in shopping mindfully; it makes you conscious of where the money goes when it leaves your wallet,” Gundrum said. “You’re helping your community when you spend money in the community.”