Before opening their Florence consignment shop, This and That Shop, on Thursday, Iva Britton and Sandy Harper noticed an interesting phenomenon.
While working to prepare the rented storefront on the west side of Main Street in Florence, they would watch people come up to the window, who did not realize the business owners were in the building, and peek inside to see what was going on.
The interest was warranted because there are multiple businesses beginning in town.
“I think it is on the way back up,” 3G Greenhouse owner Scott Zogelman said. “We are trying to make Florence a destination again.”
Florence has lost more than it’s gained over the last 50 years, including a grocery store and a third of its population.
This and That Shop is the first new business to move in this year. Britton and Harper rent spaces, 6 by 6 feet, for smaller businesses. The profits from those sales go to the vendors. There are eight vendors inside the shop, and Britton and Harper are looking to expand into a building next store to include five more.
Vendors include Florence postmaster Sue Klassen, who sells small furniture, Phoebe Janzen, who has a rack of homemade gift cards, and Laura Francis, who sells handmade jewelry.
Francis is an example of the type of vendor Britton and Harper are looking to attract — a local person who makes handmade items. Francis has lived in Florence for about 20 years, settling in town after touring the country. Francis moved in next to Britton and a friendship quickly developed. Britton and Francis both sold items at the Florence Farmer’s Market in the spring and summer.
Francis specializes in custom jewelry. Her proudest achievement was not an enormous project but something she made for free. She made wedding rings for a mentally handicapped couple who did not have any money.
“That did more for my heart than anything,” she said.
The inspiration for This and That Shop was the farmer’s market.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have the market open all year?” Britton said.
Zogelman organized the first farmer’s market in Florence two years ago with the simple goal of selling excess garden-grown fruits and vegetables. Eventually the market grew to include vendors for baked goods and crafts. It also became a meeting ground for ideas.
“The more people you have talking and interested, the more people you have acting on it,” Florence Chamber of Commerce President Joe Hayes said.
Zogelman is also expanding the farmer’s market idea into his own business. He has operated a greenhouse at his home for many years, but he said selling the items out of his home was not the ideal situation. He plans to open a storefront April 1, across the street from This and That Shop, and sell seasonal plants throughout the year.
In the spring, he is looking to sell tomato and pepper plants. As the weather warms, the business may be more floral focused.
While Zogelman owns his building on Main Street, Britton and Harper rent from Allen and Joe Hayes. Joe Hayes owns several properties in Florence. He said there is virtually any type of business space available.
He also said there are two other businesses in the works — a grocery store and antique store are both in preliminary stages.
Britton and Harper have the modest goal of keeping This and That open in Florence for a year.
Zogelman also carries no illusions. He said Florence will continue to be an sparsely populated bedroom community, but there is hope with the town’s accessibility at the intersection of two highways.
“People are familiar with the water tower. ‘I drive by that on the way to the K-State game.’ They recognize us,” Zogelman said. “If we can get them to pull off, there’ll be more than one thing to do.”
Joe Hayes is buoyed by a growing community of young people beginning to be active in town with events like the farmer’s market.
“We have people moving into town that want to start something,” Joe Hayes said. “Right now we have different people that have different ideas.”