Women Mean Business in downtown Noblesville: Feminine touch helps draw customers
Downtown Noblesville brands itself “hipstoric.” Another apt description might be “chick magnet.”
Women-owned businesses are prolific around the historic Courthouse Square, strengthening its appeal to shoppers as well as clients of professional or medical services.
“Everyone has read the stories about vibrant downtowns serving as attractors for the young and the empty-nester for quality of life — and that trend follows for women-owned businesses,” said Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism, Inc. Noblesville’s downtown is everything a business owner wants. It’s “active, safe, accessible and affordable.”
In a 2010 report, the Indiana Commission for Women said 129,559 – nearly 27 percent – of the state’s 483,242 businesses were owned by women. They produced $20 billion in annual sales and receipts, averaging 9.6 employees each.
Two Hamilton County firms, Avant Healthcare of Carmel and Hare Chevrolet of Noblesville, ranked fourth and fifth among the state’s largest businesses owned by women.
Shauna Metzger was convinced downtown Noblesville’s ambiance and activity would give Lil Bloomers the infrastructure her childrens’ boutique needed when it opened a year ago on Logan Street.
The first-time retailer didn’t foresee a lot of competition for her clothing, accessories and gifts, some made by local companies. She discovered a much-appreciated surprise: a support network and mentors among women business owners surrounding the Square.
Although maybe she shouldn’t have been surprised.
“Statistics show that professional and technical services and retail establishments are key businesses owned by women and also mesh well with downtown Noblesville’s mix of space,” Myers explained. “Likewise, women especially are drawn to areas where they feel welcome and part of a healthy and collaborative environment — both traits offered by the downtown area.”
Neighboring retailers have helped Metzger grow as a savvy business woman and offered advice that has led to making Lil Bloomers a hometown success story. In return, the former secretary in the Noblesville Township Trustee’s office has become their biggest advocate.
They meet intentionally at meetings or coincidentally at the several women-owned eateries in the area to exchange ideas about sales, promotions, special events and common concerns, such as the need for signage to direct more people downtown.
Metzger feels strongly that the public needs to know “business is more than a hobby (for women). It’s our livelihood. It’s how we feed our families, how we give our kids ballet lessons or soccer cleats.”
Shannon Loomis has contributed to those mentoring relationships and has found value from them in the growth of Kiln Creations on Ninth Street.
She has turned often to Peggy Kumler, owner of A Corner Cottage and one of the deans of women retailers around the Square, for advice and brainstorming. Kumler has been the spark for many Square-centered promotions such as Diva Night and the Chocolate Trail, which use fun activities to draw new people and frequent shoppers to various restaurants and shops.
“These two nights always prove to be successful thanks to the time, effort and attention our merchants direct toward each event,” said Chris Owens, executive director of Noblesville Main Street.
When Loomis was looking for a home for Kiln Creations, “I knew It would be nowhere else in Noblesville other than downtown. I like the area. I like the feel.” She had owned a similar and similarly successful customer-painted pottery studio in Broad Ripple for five years when Kiln Creations opened 10 years ago.
The one-time Proctor & Gamble researcher is quite content in her Ninth Street location. She owns the building, renting second-floor space to other women entrepreneurs.
“I’m glad all these little shops are here,” Loomis said. “Business owners seem to be happy with the way things are going. I’m glad that it hasn’t turned into a mega shopping area. They’re still mom and pops.”
Loomis’ typical customer is a woman, but Kiln Creations also attracts families, particularly on Sundays, and many dads wanting a creative outing with their children. A mother and daughter recently connected there, having been separated by adoption 40 years and wanting a getaway to make conversation easier. One couple comes every Valentine’s Day.
Loomis and her three part-time employees welcome every person who steps across the threshold, facilitate where needed, and know when to step back to let artistic flair and bonding flow.
“Part of the marketability of the downtown merchants is that friendly, one-on-one relationship and service so many of them provide to customers,” added Owens, who has led Main Street for two years. “It’s a different feeling and type of transaction than in a larger or chain store.”
Whether they visit for sports, business or leisure, tourists enjoy shopping while visiting Hamilton County. The 2016 Tourism Profile Survey says they spend $400 million while here.
“Some of our downtown businesses most certainly serve as draws for ‘girlfriend travelers,’ who tend to come in clusters for day or overnight trips,” commented Myers, whose staff often promotes packages for women. “There is likely some spillover effect to these successful women in business who know how to attract the woman traveler.”
By Rosalyn Demaree
Photos by John Wright