Getting the local perspective

TIPP CITY — Business owners in downtown Tipp City kicked off their Friday with a visit from congressman Warren Davidson.

“We feel very honored that he has taken time out of his busy schedule to come visit our town and to let the business people know that he hears them, he wants to hear their story, and he’s there to support them,” Kim Bulgin, executive director of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership, said. “I think they’re all really excited and looking forward to it, and it just feels special to know that the congressman is wanting to know how they’re doing.”

Davidson visited several spots downtown, including Midwest Memories, Bodega, Grounds for Pleasure Coffee House, Fox & Feather Trading Co., Browse Awhile Books, the Tipp City Municipal Building, and the Tipp City Public Library. While meeting with business owners, he wanted to hear firsthand how the pandemic had affected them and how they were able to survive the first year of the pandemic with the shutdowns and restrictions on crowds.

“We were totally closed for seven weeks. You think, oh, it’s a great time to refresh some things, do some projects — yet you have no money, you have no income. You’re sitting there, watching your bank account (go down) and thinking, OK, I hope we make it to whenever this starts back up again,” Terri Bessler, owner of Midwest Memories, said. “Luckily it started up at a very good time. We’re lucky things started back up and everyone’s been supportive of small businesses.”

Midwest Memories is an antique and vintage store sat in the heart of downtown Tipp City and is home to over 70 vendors who rent space within the store to sell their products. The business has been around for over 23 years, with Bessler at the helm of it all for the past 11 years as the business’s sole proprietor; as such, she was unable to qualify for protections such as the Payroll Protection Plan until recently. Still, the push to shop local and support small businesses as well as the Downtown Partnership’s Coronavirus Relief Program on top of over a decade of experience running a business helped keep her store afloat into 2021.

“I think it made a huge difference, having a very established business and being an experienced business owner. For someone who just started a year or two ago, I think it would have been much more devastating. I don’t have as much cash flow problems and just knowing that we could make it through probably six weeks, and just hoping that’s all it was — at some point, you have to decide to stay open or put your own money in until you can reopen,” Bessler said. “It was a gamble, still, but it wasn’t as frightening I’m sure as what some people had to go through.”

For businesses like Fox & Feather Trading Co., a clothing retail store just down the road from Midwest Memories, the pandemic forced owner Linda Kreider to expand her online platform to a website so she could continue business operations despite her store’s doors physically being closed to the public. In the long term, it’s helped her business grow and expand; something she hopes to continue with the help of her children, who help her run the store.

“We’re still growing. During the shutdown, we didn’t have an inventory system, we weren’t set up online. We worked on a website,” Kreider said. “We’ve been talking about different things here and how we can expand. We’re working on getting an app for shopping, but it’s a long process.”

“Troy and Tipp have done way better than average around the area,” Davidson said while discussing how local communities have grown over the years and remained strong through the pandemic. “You can see from the theme, you go places like The Green, they’re trying to create places that already exist here.”