Several businesses have opened in downtown in the past month, just in time for the holiday season.
Fair Trade Winds opened Friday in the former Meeks building on Fountain Avenue, joining Running with Scissors and Doug Frates Glass studio in the newly renovated building. Frates Glass moved into the building earlier this year, while Running with Scissors moved from the Heritage Center of Clark County to the remodeled building last week.
“I really want to be part of the revitalization (of downtown),” said Donna Jarzab , Fair Trade Winds store manager and a teacher at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center. “People always go somewhere else to get these kinds of things, to Cincinnati or Columbus. We could have a Short North here.”
Wittenberg University alum Paul Culler owns Fair Trade Winds, which sells fair trade, artisan-made gifts and housewares. Culler is Jarzab’s brother-in-law, and owns four other locations in the country.
Everything in the store has been handmade by women in impoverished countries and they are directly paid for the goods as a way to give them a source of income.
“Everyone forgets how privileged we are,” Jarzab said. “My brother buys (goods) up front with the hopes to sell it and just buy it more from the women who make it.”
While Fair Trade Winds focuses on buying products made by women in need in foreign countries, the Champion City Guide and Supply store focuses on promoting merchandise made in the region to promote Springfield.
Champion City Guide and Supply — around the corner from Fair Trade Winds in the Tuttle Brother’s Building on Main Street — is run by the Clark County Convention and Visitors Bureau and functions as both a visitor’s center and a retail store that sells Springfield branded apparel, mugs, notebooks and more. The store had a soft opening on Oct. 30 but will have a grand opening on Dec. 13.
“It functions really well. We’re using a lot of the heritage and the historical part to push people into modern destinations like the Hartman Rock Garden or the Heritage Center,” said Chris Schutte, director of the CVB. “It’s like a live concierge service and a retail store. We will always have someone in here. Anyone in the store will know how to guide you around Springfield.”
Schutte and officials from the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce considered the visitor centers/stores from other cities such as Louisville and Cleveland, but wanted to have a more creative local slant. Guide and Supply not only sells branded merchandise but local product lines such as Woeber Mustard, books about history and work by local artisans.
“We want to tell the story of Springfield in a retail format, from the books we sell to the literal tagging of items,” Schutte said. “People like to know more about the community. That’s been one of the pleasant surprises.”
Jarzab said she was drawn downtown not only by the historical space but all the ideas on how to make downtown better. Jarzab cited the proposed parking garage and the limited two-way street conversion on Fountain Avenue.
“I’m friends with Running with Scissors,” Jarzab said of her neighbors on Fountain Avenue. “The same type of person is going to look in both stores. This is a great little strip and I think more businesses will want to be here.”