Coming Together

As a close knit group, these six women have something in common. They each own a retail business in downtown El Campo and they call themselves the Women on Washington Street. Working together, they wanted to create a shopping event that would be welcoming and fun for local residents as well as out-of-town visitors. Their first event was such a success that they have plans for several more before the end of the year. Pictured are (l-r) Karen Rose, owner of Prairie Rose Emporium; Stacey Vesely, Ruby & Yaya co-owner; Shannon Courville, owner of Executive Stitches; April Graves, co-owner of Ruby & Yaya; Molli Bodungen, Paint Perfection owner and Cindy Macek, owner of The Mercantile.

Two heads are better than one when it comes to successful planning. That certainly holds true for five retail businesses in downtown El Campo who held their first of many planned events earlier this month featuring in-store specials, musical entertainment and food trucks. They call themselves the Women on Washington Street.

“One day Cindy (Macek) came in and said that it occurred to her that we are all women small business owners on North Washington and that maybe we could use that to help market and generate business downtown,” Molli Bodungen, owner of Paint Perfection, said. “So she thought of the Women on Washington and we all jumped on board.”

Macek is owner of The Mercantile, a store located in the block just north of Paint Perfection. The newest retail store, Ruby & Yaya, is owned by sisters Stacey Vesely and April Graves. The other women-owned businesses across the street are Karen Rose’s Prairie Rose Emporium and Executive Stitches, owned by Shannon Courville. Of the five retail stores, Rose has been in business the longest with Executive Stitches opening a couple of years later, according to Rose.

“I opened 17 years ago in 2005,” Rose said.

Rose eventually expanded her store when Fred Simmons, who owned a shoe store next door, had retired. She knocked out the wall and moved merchandise next door in 2007. Then in 2011, she purchased a local kitchen accessory business and added its inventory to her store.

Little by little she expanded, while across the street Bodungen had purchased Paint Perfection. She remodeled the upstairs to showcase art and then to house office spaces. She also opened up two other businesses on North Washington, The Mercantile with furniture and other items, and The Workshop that served as an art studio run by a local artist.

Ruby and Yaya, now located in the former Workshop building between The Mercantile and Paint Perfection, has brought in more business to the downtown area.

“I recruited Cindy to buy the Mercantile from me and then when Ruby and YaYa’s (the former Workshop) space became available, Cindy and I both thought of them first,” Bodungen said. “I begged Cindy for a year to buy The Mercantile from me, so I was very excited. We both were so happy to have the ladies (Ruby & Yaya) move in.”

“Since Rudy & Yaya moved in, they have been bringing in a different type of customer, which is good for all of us,” Rose said.

The shopping event hosted by the five businesses was a success, despite the sporadic rain fall on Saturday, Aug. 7, according to Rose.

“We had a good turnout,” Rose said. “It is nice to know we have a community that supports us.”

The ladies support each other’s business, too.

“When someone new comes into Paint Perfection, I always highlight what the surrounding ladies have to offer,” Bodungen said. “If someone is new to town or moving, I explain the Mercantile consignment system and encourage them to check them out.”

They communicate mostly via text messaging, because running a business leaves little time to get together and plan as a group. Occasionally, one may step next door or across the street to visit, if time allows.

“We do all work well together,” Bodungen said. “We mainly use a group text because we are all pretty tied down at our locations.”

The group hopes to plan several more events before the end of the year to boost downtown business.

“The goal for our events is to pull our contacts and customer bases so that we get more people shopping local and downtown,” Bodungen said. “We have a beautiful downtown and it should be enjoyed by all. We like bringing in music and things to show our customers we appreciate them also.”

“You have to create commotion, an event, it’s part of retailing,” Rose said. “Shop small, shop local.”

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