Springfielders from near and far who flock to Champion City Guide & Supply each year for Springfield-themed Christmas gifts will make their way to a new location this year.
And above the entrance at 137 N. Fountain Ave., they will find the logo of the new Champion City Crow.
In one way, the image is merely part of a branding update undertaken for the move to the shop’s new digs.
But the story behind it also serves as a reminder of the generations of Wittenberg University students who have graduated have put down roots and lived their lives in the Champion City.
As was the case for me in a previous century and millenium, Kelcie Webster’s perhaps most influential out-of-the-bubble experience while at Wittenberg was an internship in the city.
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The Chamber of Greater Springfield’s shop was in its first months at the southwest corner of Main and Spring streets in 2013 when the communication major’s internship began.
A year later, the internship was over and graduation had arrived.
But half a dozen years after her first shift at Guide & Supply, she is the store’s day-to-day manager, working a job in which she also helps to plan chamber events and works with the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It’s largely because of her that the Champion City Crow has assumed its elevated position.
As a sophomore, Webster lived in Tower Hall and recalls walking toward the Benham-Pence Student Center on a winter’s day when she looked up into a bare branched tree.
Although the leaves were all gone, it seemed thickly leafed out with the bodies of roosting crows. At this time of year, the birds commute daily to feed on leftovers in harvested fields, then return home to roost in the city’s trees.
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Like so many, she knew that any gathering of crows is called a murder instead of a flock, and that left an impression.
And so it came to pass that when she and others were brainstorming for a new logo for the new location, the bird came to mind.
“We plugged in the crow,” she said, “and it kind of worked.”
It appears not only above the store’s entrance, but on the leather patch on the front of knit hats, on T-shirts, Christmas tree ornaments and on a chalkboard behind the sales counter in this Christmas’ crow naming game.
The store’s overall graphic style and local branding theme were originally shaped and continued to be shaped by the Chamber’s Chris Schutte and Andy Hayes of Hucklebuck Design Studio.
A variety of T-shirts focus on Springfield institutions of past and present: Champion industries, International Harvester, the Frost Top drive-in, the Reid Park rocket slide and featherweight champion boxer Davey Moore.
There is plenty of nostalgia wear, and the popularity of North High School T-shirts has spawned a North tree ornament.
The Guide & Supply inventory includes three coffee table books: Paul Schahner and Anne Benston’s “Beautiful Ferncliff”; George Berkhofer’s local architectural work “No Place Like Home”; and Tami Dallenbach’s “Ridgewood in the Country Club District.”
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“They’re a huge seller at Christmas,” Webster said, “because you don’t have to worry about sizes.”
Small local businesses also are developing a special niche. Among them are by Kathryn Roger’ Holly & Tanager handbags; jewelry by Katy Ryan designs; Jordan Lyons’ Nifty Knits; Lauren Craig’s homemade cosmetics and personal care items; and clever gift cards by Molly Mattin.
One Mattin card that sends this wisecrack greeting to holiday killjoys: Santa doesn’t believe in you, either.
Because of requests from non-Springfielders, Webster has added scripty Ohio clothing and trendy saleables like Brumate drink holders and infinitely reusable steel straws. Those might come in handy if customers take home one of many varieties of Springfield-made Rue Farm Rustic Potato Chips also for sale.
To keep up with trends in a trendy business, Webster says she looks on other locally focused stores, like Homage in Columbus. She also keeps an eye out on her own for color and graphic trends, and listens to trend-conscious Wittenberg students, who are more frequent visitors at the store’s new location.
In her years in Springfield, Webster has noticed another local trend: “The way Springfield is progressing as a whole.”
“Having the store is a just a cool way of promoting that,” she said, “and has helped to create some (sense of) pride.”
And now her Champion City Crow is a part of that.
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