It’s hard to believe, but here we are at Week 18 of my 50 in 50. This week, I decided to take a break from the usual format. Instead of visiting one business, I visited several – all along the City of Corry’s Center Street stretch.
The timing seemed serendipitous: Last week, when I visited, was PA Small Business Week, and it was also the Corry Downtown Business Association’s first First Fridays event of the season. On top of that, three downtown Corry business – the Purple Peacock Candle Company, Epiphany’s Emporium and Pipit’s – were celebrating their grand openings or grand re-openings.
The Corry Downtown Business Association (CDBA) was formed by a group of Corry small-business owners who were looking for ways to support each other and spread the word about Corry’s downtown shops.
Purple Peacock owner Alice Muir, one of the CDBA’s unofficial leaders, says the group began with several business owners “banding together to see if we could get something to happen.”
That “something” included launching the First Fridays events, which returned for 2017 this past Friday. The CDBA’s 15 members also meet regularly to brainstorm ideas to spur business – such as brushing up on their social media skills – and to offer support to their fellow small-business owners.
Slowly, but steadily, the CDBA is making an impact in Corry. It is helping to promote the idea of shopping locally (by supporting both local business owners and local artisans), and it is reinvigorating Corry’s main thoroughfare.
For Miki Hammond, owner of Pipit’s, the mission is simple: “We all have a vision for our town and what we want it to be.”
My first stop in Corry was at the Purple Peacock, which recently moved down the block into a larger space.
The room, with signature purple walls and shelves, offers a variety of handmade items, notably owner Alice Muir’s hand-made candles and bath products, which really launched her business. Some uniquely scented soy candles share shelf space with traditional scents, but all – yes, even “Sasquatch Poop” and “Unicorn Toots” – smell uncommonly good.
In addition to the candles, Muir offers refurbished furniture and a variety of home décor items, some rustic and hand-painted by local Corry artists, some offering a touch of whimsy. And, of course, there were peacock statues scattered around, just begging for a selfie.
For Muir, who has owned businesses before, the Purple Peacock is a chance to be her own boss and to sell her hand-made products in a storefront, in addition to in her Etsy shop. And the CDBA is a chance to connect with other businesses and to see her store, and the Corry community overall, thrive.
My next stop in Corry was at Epiphany’s Emporium, an eclectic little shop that was celebrating its grand opening.
The store is next-door to the Painted Finch Gallery, a favorite shop of mine. Epiphany’s Emporium is owned by Painted Finch owner Wendy Neckers.
By the time I made my way into Epiphany’s, the crowds had started to flow in. A big draw at Epiphany’s was the taste-test table set up in front of a wall of uniquely flavored craft soda pops.
Valerie Beckerink, who manages the store for Neckers, her sister, expertly described the different flavors – some of which come from as far away as England.
Aside from the pop bottles, Epiphany’s offers an array of interesting items, including whimsical clocks, fun handbags, and exquisite journals and pens. One corner features a variety of art supplies, and racks near the register display handmade greeting cards.
While some of the items in Epiphany’s are made locally, Beckerink says she would like to see more items originate from Corry-area artisans.
My next stop was Pipit’s, where owner Miki Hammond was setting up the store for a children’s fashion show that was planned for later in the evening.
Pipit’s was celebrating its grand re-opening, after moving up the block to a larger space. I also got to chat with Miss Erie County Dakota McElravy, a Corry native who was on hand for the grand re-opening.
Looking around the shop, it was clear to see Pipit’s specialty: Children’s clothes – specifically, adorable handmade frocks for little girls.
Hammond sews the pieces, and even has a workshop set up in Pipit’s so customers can watch her work. The pieces are not just professionally done, they are also one of a kind.
She also has cultivated a presence online, providing personal service to customers near and far.
Hammond is proud that her enterprise, just a few years old, has already expanded into a larger space – and she hopes that one day, she’ll be able to expand again, including by hiring staff to help with the sewing. It’s a dream, she says, to one day be able to provide good jobs in her community.