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Main St. shop closing

By John Estridge, Editor

Mike and Amy Martino are grandparents.

As with most grandparents, the Martinos want to see more of their grandchildren. However, a daughter lives in Pittsburgh, and a son lives in Virginia, so seeing the grandchildren more often is problematic.

“We want to move closer to our children,” Amy said. “Our daughter lives in Pittsburgh. Our son is in the Ashburn area. We have five grandchildren under the age of 3. We want to enjoy our grandchildren.”

Thus, the Martinos are closing the doors on the popular gift shop, Gift Shoppe on Main. They will have a going-out-of-business sale beginning Saturday, March 24 and ending on Saturday, April 21. Their hours during that time will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

During the sale items will be 30 percent off with Christmas and holiday items 50 percent off. They are also going to sell the store's fixtures.

The Martinos opened the Gift Shoppe on Main in November of 2009.

Mike worked for Visteon in Connersville. After Visteon closed, he went to another Visteon location, but then decided to retire from Visteon. Thus, they decided to open their shop. According to Mike, they looked at what would go in Brookville and decided they would buy and sell handcrafted items.

“This was vacant, and we decided why not rent it ourselves and open up a place where you could buy handcrafted items,” Mike said.

Then, they went one step farther. After living through the Visteon closure, Mike decided to have only American-made items in their shop.

“Then, we decided to make it all American made because of all the jobs that were lost in our area because of plant closures,” Mike said.

Amy Beneker Martino is a 1969 Brookville High School graduate. She is also an artist.

“Amy always made our clothes,” Mike said. “So, we brought her talents into this also.

Amy said the real reason they opened up the gift shop was Mike needed something to do after his retirement.

According to both Mike and Amy, they really enjoyed going out and meeting artisans and helping the artisans by selling the artisans' products.

“We've enjoyed the personalities, of not only our customers but also our artisans,” Mike said. “We have met people nationwide, and they're all so personable. And they all have small businesses. It's our delight to help them grow their home businesses. They have kilns in their garages and basements. It's great.”

Indiana recognized the Martinos efforts to grow small businesses. The Indiana Small Business Development Center presented the Martinos with a trophy for being named Home-based Business Champion of the Year in 2012.

Mike was a member of the Franklin County Economic Development Commission. He really wants small businesses to succeed.

“We enjoyed that more than anything, just being able to support all the other small businesses,” Mike said.

With their shop, they supported 170 other small businesses.

“We started with a handful,” Mike said.

In fact, all their merchandise at the beginning was in one room and very spread out so it looked like they had more. Now all three of their rooms are packed with merchandise.

Amy said she has always marveled at the creative thinking that goes on with artisans.

“The ideas that are out there that people come up with,” Amy said. “We saw some jewelry where they use guitar strings. And (we enjoy) all the different styles of pottery out there.”

They also have shown the paintings of local artists like Charlene George, a Plein Air painter. Their daughter, Rachel's art includes gourds.

One of the highlights of the gift shop is it has been an outlet for local writers to have book signings and display their books. Local writers have displayed comedies, children books and novels.

It all started with retired high school English teacher Mark McLane's first book.

“He came looking for us,” Mike said.

From there, they now have several authors who have their books at the shop and who have held book signings. The Martinos said they really enjoyed the book signings. It was like a party with appetizers and something to drink.

“It was fun,” Mike said.

And fun is the common denominator when Mike and Amy talk about almost anything related to their business.

Customers have helped them as much if not more than the Martinos helped their customers. Customers would travel and then come back and make suggestions on different products to try to sell at the gift shop.

“We have become friends with our customers,” Amy said. “We had one fellow give us his fruitcake recipe. It was his grandmother's and came over from Europe.”

“They have helped us along the way,” Mike said. “They helped us through their ideas and encouragement. That's what makes small towns so nice.”