Think of downtown Farmville on a busy Saturday afternoon, the stores and the streets full of shoppers, baby strollers and college students.
Now think of that same scene without Mainly Clay, Green Front Accessories, Walker’s Diner, Rug Rats and Caryn’s Bridals. These are just a few of the 18 downtown businesses owned solely by women, and it’s clear that, without them, downtown would be a quite different place. With the advent of International Women’s Day on March 8, Farmville Downtown Partnership is celebrating the positive impact of businesses run by women in the Main Street District.
“The contribution of women-owned businesses to the success of downtown Farmville cannot be underestimated,” said Dr. John Miller, president of Farmville Downtown Partnership. “Much of the variety found in the downtown experience—from custom rugs to unique crafts and antiques—is due to the influence of these businesses.”
With new businesses opening and those already established growing in popularity, Farmville downtown’s appeal as a destination has never been better.
“Caryn’s clients come from all over the state, and they love downtown Farmville,” said Caryn Kayton, who opened Caryn’s Bridals, Formals and Tuxedos more than 30 years ago.
The owner of Penelope on Main agrees.
“As a business owner in downtown Farmville, I love the diversity of our customers,” said Penelope Searcy, the owner of nine women’s jewelry and clothing stores located throughout Virginia. “We not only have customers from Prince Edward and surrounding counties but also from the college student population and from farther afield, including the Richmond area. Our business caters to women of all ages and walks of life, and it’s great to be able to pull from so many different geographical areas.”
What’s happening in Farmville reflects national trends. In the Farmville Downtown Main Street District, about 30 percent of the privately-owned downtown businesses are owned solely by women, and several more are co-owned by women. Recent U.S. Census Bureau figures show the national average for women-owned businesses is 28.8 percent, and Virginia ranks in the top 10 states with a rate of 30.1 percent. (The Census Bureau defines women-owned businesses as those in which women own at least 51 percent of the company.)
And the number of small businesses in the U.S. owned by women is increasing, growing at twice the rate of all other groups from 1997-2002, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. The center estimates that, by providing employment and bringing revenue into their communities, these women-owned businesses have a combined economic impact of nearly $3 trillion annually.
Navona Hart, owner of Real Living Cornerstone Realty, feels she has received as much from the Farmville community as her business has contributed to the area’s economic health.
“The opportunity to grow a business here has been amazing. I am so grateful for the community that has welcomed me and helped me grow. Every day I count my blessings for my location, my business, my business neighbors and the spirit of Farmville,” she said.
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