More local products than ever before at downtown shop

Candle Shop, Burlap-n-Rags, Bow-Dacious among town’s long-term businesses

by BETH ALTENA

“If we won’t support our economy, who will?” said Meg Frantz, owner of Bow-Dacious, The Candle Shop and Burlaps-n-Rags in downtown Rockford.

Meg Frantz is the owner of three of Rockford’s downtown shops. Her business model includes offering as many locally made and USA-made products as possible.

Frantz, following in the footsteps of her parents, appreciates the subtleties of running a successful business—or two. Frantz took over her mother’s store of 35 years and picked up another five years ago. Among the important issues in keeping a small store going, even in rough times, is trying to support others in business. It’s a philosophy seen throughout downtown, where merchants support each other in a variety of ways and believe continued success for each depends on the success of downtown as a whole.

Frantz believes this philosophy is also true of Michigan and our country and that, despite the Internet and global competition, it still is a small world where each of us can make a difference. Between both stores, shoppers can find over 20 lines of products made right here in our home state and 21 more made in the United States. In addition, Frantz tries to support sisters in need overseas, and like the WAR Chest Boutique, offers products made by women around the world trying to escape poverty or worse.

Many artisans are also making use of reused items and recycled material as well as handmade products. She showed off the products of a local woman who Frantz met when the woman was an artist in Art in the Park. Another vendor uses handmade beads to create stunning, one-of-a-kind servingware. A shopper in the store testified to the product’s quality. “I bought one like that here two years ago and use it all the time. It gets thrown in the dishwasher along with every thing else and it’s held up wonderfully,” said Nancy Peitz of Dearborn, who describes herself as a frequent Rockford shopper.

The story of how Frantz came to be among the shop owners of downtown Rockford is curious. She started out as an aspiring pre-law student, schooled at Michigan State University and Western Michigan University in pre-law. Her first job was in specialty child abuse and neglect at a sexual abuse center. “I went home crying every day,” Frantz said. She left that job.

Over the years Frantz had a variety of jobs, including the one woman with 35 guys running a Steelcase bender press, as a swim teacher, a real estate agent, and as Tillie the Talking Christmas Tree in a mall. A stint on stage at Circle Theater and her trademark sunny smile earned the notice and then a feature in the Grand Rapids Press during National Smile Week. Frantz’s most satisfying jobs were ones that used her talent in color and design, and she ended up running her own design business.

Frantz took over her parents’ businesses 10 years ago, when they were ready to semi-retire, and picked up Bow-Dacious five years ago this January 1. Her husband Charlie took over as manager at The Candle Shop and Burlap-n-Rags. The 38-year-old Bow-Dacious—formerly located in the east side of the state—offers a variety of items from dip mixes to the popular hand-warmer coffee mugs to clothes, jewelry, baby treasure and home decorating items. Frantz has all along kept her hand in with her first love of design consultation and still offers that service as well as silk florals for weddings.

All along Frantz has maintained that Rockford’s best asset in successful business is to work together to provide a complete shopping experience with as little duplication as possible between stores. An example is this weekend’s Girlfriend StayCation in which many downtown stores are providing extra services, specials and demos to make for a fun visit.

“If you aren’t loving it and having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it,” she said as words of advice to others thinking about going into business for themselves.

Also, you can’t be pushy. “I tell people if it doesn’t speak to you, don’t buy it,” Frantz stated. She gave this advice to a reluctant shopper once during sidewalk sales and the customer walked away without a sale. An hour or so later, Frantz looked up to see the woman rounding the corner at Main Street. “She yelled down the entire street, ‘It’s been screaming at me for an hour, wrap it up!’”

Frantz said a core idea that all businesses should consider is that each shopper is “broke at a different level.” As a design consultant or a shop owner, she knows it is important to help customers do what they can within their means. “Some designers will tell people they have to buy all this new stuff, and that’s expensive,” she said. “Plenty of people already have what they need in their home, but just don’t know how to put it together. That’s what I can do.”

She said the same can apply to a customer who has an item which has become old, tired or boring. “If you have a wreath and it’s just the right size, bring it in and we can freshen it up.”

The can-do attitude Frantz shares with other Rockford merchants is part of the appeal in this town of quaint stores and self-owned businesses. “What I love about Rockford is we look out for each other and we refer customers to each other,” she said. “If I don’t have it here, I tell them who has it. We try not to compete with each other; we try to compliment each other.”

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