Section: News

Mount Vernon, Gambier seek to support local businesses

Mount Vernon, Gambier seek to support local businesses

COURTESY OF PARAGRAPHS BOOKSTORE

Local businesses are thriving in both Gambier and Mount Vernon this holiday season.  This past weekend, Mount Vernon held its annual post-Thanksgiving shopping event, “Shop Small Saturday,” with the goal of encouraging traffic to local businesses in partnership with Experience Mount Vernon. Kenyon is also looking to expand support for local businesses, with plans to lease two areas that were formerly classrooms in downtown Gambier to businesses in the near future, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Celestino Limas.

The Shop Small initiative was initially launched in November 2010 as an attempt to support Mount Vernon businesses struggling after the Great Recession. Since then, it has persisted as a way to launch the holiday season, boost patronage of local establishments and show community-wide support for small businesses. By spending money at any participating shop, purchasers had the chance to win a gift card for specific establishments as well as a $50 gift card to any business. “To increase foot traffic for businesses, store owners will usually recommend that shoppers check out other stores next door, across the street, etc., further demonstrating the community-wide nature of the event,” a 2020 article from the Mount Vernon News reported. 

Over a dozen Mount Vernon businesses participated, with venues ranging from Paragraphs Bookstore and Baxter’s Wine and Whiskey to Summit Axe Throwing. Several shops offered raffles or special promotions for shoppers, and a dollar from each Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area purchase was donated to the Knox Substance Abuse Action Team. 

One of the major players in planning Shop Small Saturday was Experience Mount Vernon, a community nonprofit organization that aims to “energize and strengthen an authentic and uniquely downtown experience,” according to its website. The organization contributes to the downtown and surrounding areas in a number of ways, striving for beautification, community development and enhancement. It also helps organize a number of exciting programs such as First Fridays, Johnny Appleseed Festival and Winter in Downtown. 

While Mount Vernon celebrates small businesses, Gambier is looking to expand the Village’s own businesses as well. Two spaces in downtown Gambier underneath the Farr Apartments, Gaskin 112 and 114, have reverted from classroom spaces into potential retail spaces. Limas explained that the College is looking to lease those retail spaces to new tenants. Students received a survey a few weeks ago asking what kind of establishments they’d like to see in those spaces, and the aim is to increase the vibrancy of the downtown. “[T]he College, under the leadership of [Vice President for Facilities, Planning and Sustainability] Ian Smith, has been working very hard with the Chamber of Commerce, with the Village of Gambier, to try and entertain tenants for those,” Limas said. “My hope is that in the near future, this spring semester, at some point, the College can share some exciting news on exactly which businesses are going to be in those two spaces.” 

Although the pandemic caused retail businesses in Gambier to decrease hours or close entirely, the Village has seen revitalization in the last few years, with the Village Market expanding its operations and hours underneath new management. Wiggin Street Coffee has seen similar expansion, increasing days and hours of operation. Limas expressed hope that new businesses would continue to provide opportunities for both the Village of Gambier and for students at Kenyon.  “The College and the Village are jointly invested in having two new retail friends join that area,” he said. “When we do announce who is going to be going in those, it’s going to be a really big day.”

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