CHAMBERSBURG – When Willow & Birch (78 S. Main St.) officially celebrated the grand opening of their downtown storefront a little more than week ago, it wasn’t a coincidence that it lined up with Apple Fest. In fact, downtown Chambersburg’s busy event calendar is a major reason why they chose this location: each event is an opportunity to introduce new customers to their selection of higher-end home décor and other products.
It’s late October so the store is pleasantly stuffed with baskets, utensils, jars, bottles and vases to be placed on shelves or hung on walls. There are lots and lots of decorative pumpkins as well as other items that happen to be pumpkin-shaped to add a finishing touch to autumn-themed table settings and dining rooms.
“Home décor is our main thing,” says owner April Helman describing Willow & Birch. They also offer candles, soaps, food items and more.
In the back corner of the store, they have an entire section dedicated to babies. In the front corner, they have a section for men that includes locally produced beard oils and colognes.
In terms of their food offerings, Helman is especially proud to offer Ocean City-based Fisher’s Popcorn so Chambersburgers can enjoy one of their favorite vacation pleasures without the drive.
“And a lot of people are probably familiar with Stonewall Kitchen’s sauces and jellies,” says Helman.
Willow & Birch initially launched in a smaller location in Shippensburg, but even at that time Helman envisioned a larger space in Chambersburg from which she could better engage with her customers and the community – and the exposed brick walls didn’t’ hurt.
“We were looking in Chambersburg for a long time but couldn’t find anything,” she says. “I was kind of giving up hope, and then we found the small shop in Shippensburg. We signed a six-month lease knowing our intention was to come [to Chambersburg] because of all of the different activities that the downtown community offers.”
Helman’s daughter, a real estate agent, was tipped off to the location through a conversation with Downtown Chambersburg Inc’s Sam Thrush. Willow & Birch was one of about a half dozen businesses that applied for the space.
“We’re happy that they were able to pick the location where they’re at,” said Thrush. “I think it’s working well for them. Being in a spot that used to be a gift store, I think would help another gift and décor place.”
He is also pleased to see that Willow & Birch’s Shippensburg customers have continued to support them in their new location.
“They have a following in Shippensburg,” said Thrush. “I’ve seen that following come to Willow & Birch in Chambersburg, and I’ve seen some of those people from Shippensburg go shop in other Chambersburg places.”
Having an existing customer base and a great location are a great start for any business, but the annual downtown events are a key part of Helman’s strategy.
“We wanted to be able to be part of the community,” says Helman. “I think we did really well with Apple Fest where we had pumpkins for the kids to paint, we had snacks and stuff, and we had a free coffee bar for the customers – that’s ongoing.”
Now they are turning their attention to downtown’s trick-or-treat night, and they’re already getting excited about Small Business Saturday.
“That’s going to be huge for us,” she says.