Downtown stores often close by late afternoon, but Friday in Brownstown and Ewing was an exception.
Friends and family members were seen going from store to store for four hours that night for the second Girls Night Out shopping event.
The small businesses that have set up shop in the downtown and other areas of the two communities benefit from the sales during the event.
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But perhaps their greatest joy is seeing a lot of people downtown shopping and having fun together.
“It shows that after 200 years, it’s still alive,” Joanna Fleetwood, owner of Simply Treasures LLC, said of Brownstown still thriving in its bicentennial year.
Todd Darlage, owner of Ewing Unique and Boutique LLC, said during the first Girls Night Out on June 24, he stayed open nearly two hours longer than the other businesses because people were still in his store looking around.
“The sidewalks don’t have to roll up at 5 o’clock,” he said. “In small towns, they usually do, so it’s nice to see people out and about. Everybody that I talked to said it’s nice seeing people on the streets of Brownstown. It’s nice to see people out doing other things and getting people from other towns out and about.”
Fleetwood said it’s also nice because the event is not a competition between the businesses. Throughout the year, they often help each other out.
“If we don’t have something and somebody asks us, we’ll tell them, ‘Have you tried over here?’ or ‘Have you tried over there?’” she said. “Everybody supports each other. We’re all in it together.”
Girls Night Out started when Silpada Designs sales representative Amanda Lowery was going to conduct a sale at the former Deck’d Out Photography Studio in Brownstown. She sent out invitations to people and generated a lot of interest, so she decided to get Brownstown businesses involved to benefit from the traffic coming into town.
Twelve businesses agreed to stay open longer the night of June 24, and Brownstown and Ewing were filled with people checking out the stores and making purchases.
The same thing happened during the second event Friday.
Simply Treasures, Boutique Elise, The Mercantile, Wild Gourd and Friends, Funky Junk, Brownstown Hardware, Blondie’s Pizzeria and Pub and Casey’s Cakes and Classes, all in downtown Brownstown, had extended hours. Lowery also had another Silpada sale.
In other areas of town, All ‘Bout That Junque LLC, Michie’s Diner and Back Porch Ice Cream were open, and Darlage’s shop was open in Ewing.
New to the event were a fish fry by the Brownstown Exchange Club, a bake sale by the Jackson County Republican Party, popcorn and drinks from the Jackson County History Center and performances by local musicians Tyler Wessel, Jim Prajzner, Ryan Holle and Justyn Underwood on the new Heritage Park stage.
Allison Sparks, owner of Funky Junk, has helped organize and advertise both Girls Night Out events. She said the first one was great because the hardware store had its 106th anniversary celebration that day, which resulted in people being downtown then and staying throughout the evening.
“It was just fun all day long, action going on,” she said. “I was blown away by how many people came. We just didn’t know, and we were blown away, so we were really happy with the support.”
The Mercantile, Wild Gourd and Friends and All ‘Bout That Junque all opened June 1, which was just in time for the first Girls Night Out.
Renee Jensen, owner of The Mercantile, said the events have brought awareness to her business, which is along West Walnut Street about a block off from Main Street.
“I have regulars already, and I’m only a couple of months in,” she said.
Jensen offers some handmade items, but most of her store consists of things she finds at sales and auctions.
“Fun, quirky, unique, that’s what I’m going for is stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” she said. “You just never know what I have in here.”
She also has a couple of racks of clothes, with each piece being $2 unless marked different. She accepts donations, too, and 20 percent of those sales goes to a Brownstown Central High School scholarship fund.
All ‘Bout That Junque is on the east end of Brownstown, and owner Teena Schulz said people have made the short drive during both Girls Night Out events.
“We had a lot of compliments saying what an improvement this place ended up being. They were pleased with it,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people just stop in to say hi and some of them shopping.”
Schulz sells items she finds and also offers vendors an opportunity to set up booths.
“I like to shop in places like this, and I had quite a collection and thought I would share them,” she said of why she started the business.
Fleetwood’s business has been open under a new name since April 12. For more than 20 years, it operated under the name Clotheshorse Consignment and featured used clothing and various items.
But when Fleetwood bought it a couple of years ago, she decided to rent out 20 booths and give people an opportunity to price their own merchandise.
That worked out well for the Girls Night Out events because the merchandise was different both times.
“Some of our booths weren’t as full then as we are now, and since then, we have filled this building,” Fleetwood said. “It has been a lot of fun. We’ve met a lot of people, new people from here, there and yonder.”
She said she likes the atmosphere of the store because it offers a couple of tables for people to sit down, take a break from shopping and talk.
“That’s what it’s all about, just making friends and having fellowship with one another,” Fleetwood said.
Darlage said it has been good to see people make the short drive to his store in Ewing after visiting the stores in downtown Brownstown.
“It’s just nice because everybody is usually in a good mood because they are shopping, and they know that’s what they are there for,” he said. “It’s nice just to see people out, just to get new faces and people to come to your business that haven’t been here before.”
Shirley Stuckwisch of Brownstown said she went to the first Girls Night Out with her daughter-in-law and two granddaughters and had a good time.
“We just all went together, so it was just a really neat thing to go with them,” she said.
On Friday, she invited her co-worker and friend, Rhonda Pardieck of Seymour, to the second shopping event.
Their first stop was The Mercantile, and they planned on visiting the other stores around town.
“I think it’s wonderful for downtown Brownstown, all of these extra little shops,” Pardieck said. “I can’t wait to see the rest of them.”
Sparks said the plans are to have another shopping event in the fall and one before Christmas.
“We’re hoping maybe every six weeks, but that’s nothing set in stone,” she said.
Jensen said she hopes to see the event grow and possibly feature a farmers market, while Fleetwood said it would be good for the Christmastime event to feature carolers and carriage rides.
Sparks said organizers are open to hearing suggestions and involving any other businesses or organizations in future events.
“I love seeing Brownstown grow,” she said. “It’s awesome.”