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Two businesses join forces to expand

Staff writer

Tamara Christiansen of rural Marion drove by the former hardware building at Third and Main Street every day on the way to her small Marion Main Street shop. She had always admired the building and thought it was too nice of a building to remain empty.

However, she loved her little shop a block away. It was the perfect size three years ago when she first opened her business, PLANTations. But now the building seemed too small, crowded, cramped.

So a few weeks ago, she did it. She asked DuWayne Suffield, owner of the building at Third and Main streets, if he would be willing to lease the building to her and he agreed.

Christiansen knew she couldn’t use the entire building, so she wondered if Ida French, owner of Zimmerman’s Deli and Coffee Shop, downtown Marion, would be interested in sharing part of the building.

Little did she know that French was facing a crossroads of her own. With new rules being implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture — the agency that oversees restaurant regulations — changes were on the horizon. Those changes would be a challenge at the current location of the sandwich shop, which French has occupied for the past six years.

“I asked Ida if she wanted to expand and she said, ‘Yes’,” Christiansen said.

“I saw it as an opportunity,” French said. “I could broaden my products and expand my menu.

“Besides, if I didn’t do something, I would be out of business in a year.”

The former classmates know their businesses could attract more customers and they know customers of one business are likely to patronize the other business — a win-win situation for both.

Christiansen didn’t waste any time in making the move. With the help of family and friends, she moved her store’s inventory March 27 to the building at Main and Third streets and was open the following Monday.

A metal wallcovering, fresh paint, and decorative touches have made the former hardware store into a unique boutique and flower shop.

Purses, jewelry, apparel, candles, food items, and home décor are now arranged to enhance the shopping experience.

“The location is great,” Christiansen said. “Customers had a hard time finding me tucked away in the smaller location.”

These days, the shop owner is busy preparing for local and area proms.

“It is so rewarding when girls come back to me every year for their flowers,” she said. “It’s a good feeling when people trust me.”

Tuxedo rentals are available as is the purchase of formal attire.

Christiansen bases her eclectic inventory on popular taste and her own preference. She also relies on friends, whom she takes with her to two annual trade shows where orders are placed.

Requests for her assistance in planning weddings have expanded with more brides seeking her nontraditional approach to floral arrangements and overall decorating.

“I believe I offer something not offered anywhere else in town,” Christiansen said.

For French, the move isn’t as subtle. A kitchen needs to be planned and constructed, meeting the requirements of state licensing. A seating area needs to be arranged, which will include a Wi-Fi area for those who want to connect to the Internet from their laptops.

She remains adamant about the types of food she serves.

“People have asked but there will be no fried foods. There won’t be a grill,” French said.

She relies on toaster ovens and other means of preparing her freshly made sandwiches, salads, and soups that keep bringing customers back.

If all goes according to plan, the hours of the sandwich shop will be expanded and an evening menu may be offered but that’s further down the road.

Putting first things first, French just wants to get work under way so she can move her shop to the new location by of May 1.

Yes, sometimes things just work out — and to think this all started with dreams by two local storeowners and a lot of perseverance.

Last modified April 1, 2010

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