Go behind the scenes at the one-of-a-kind shops in the Poconos to meet the small business owners of Gather in Honesdale and Asparagus Sunshine in Delaware Water Gap.
It has been four years and change since Olivia Santo set up shop on Main Street in Honesdale. Her store, Gather, is without a doubt a big part of her life.
“It’s definitely, it's hard work. You're constantly working, you're not just working when you're in the store. Working at home you are always thinking of something that will further your business,” said Santo.
The 20-something was living in New York, wanted more than the corporate life and moved home to part of a changing downtown Honesdale and Pocono Mountains.
While rewarding, Gather and the small business life is still a commitment, a huge one.
“I work weekends and holidays. Those are the busiest time so I have to make sure I'm at work those days. It's a commitment and sacrifice I have to make. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Santo “I'm so happy to be my own boss. To feel like I'm making a difference here. Meet so many amazing people. It’s the best job I ever had really.”
Fifty miles away in another part of the Poconos, Lauren Chamberlain has been putting out the open sign at her Asparagus Sunshine for four years as well. Her hometown store turned a hobby into what Lauren calls an “extension of her personality.”
“It's literally different in here every time you come in. There might be a whole new display or something new. We carry old things we carry some things new,” said Chamberlain.
Her space, especially the counter, has a special connection for Lauren.
“I sat at this counter, my first job, I glued leather wallets together when it was the leather shop,” she added.
Now it is her shop. Antiques, local memorabilia, things that just didn’t appear overnight. Lauren has spent years searching, stocking and devoting big time and effort to this small business.
“Somebody's gotta move all this stuff. There is physical labor involved. I can't turn my brain off, I'm sitting home doing books or in shop repairing something. I work 7 days a week,” said Chamberlain.
Whether it is Asparagus Sunshine or Gather or any number of small businesses dotting the map of the Poconos, the story is the same. It is work. And sometimes, not always what you think.
“You never know what's going to happen that day. The other day there was a skunk in my basement,” said Santo.
Olivia called in the professionals and the skunk was safely sent on its way. A small reminder of just interconnected the small business community is here and across the Poconos.
“It's a team effort constantly, rely on other businesses. It's a constant collaboration with everybody. We have a great network and support system of business owners on Main Street,” said Santo.
From Main Street Honesdale to Delaware Street in Water Gap, relying upon one another is key for small businesses.
“This community has that already, being a business in it, it just works. We're friends, you can call anyone in town,” said Chamberlain.
All that hard work has paid off. Lauren and Asparagus Sunshine have plans to expand and open a new shop around the corner.
“As hard as its been and struggles we've had, I love being here in this spot this community. I love my customers, I love what I carry. I wouldn't change it for the world,” echoed Chamberlain.
This love, this passion for the small business life is many things. Wearing different hats, balancing the books and at times, pest removal. Plus, the onslaught of holiday shopping.
“I want to get through Q4, it’s the busiest time of the year. It’s my favorite time of the year. The store looks great, so many gifts and Christmas items let's get through that first,” said Santo with a grin of anticipation on her face.
Always thinking business, these owners work to give our Pocono towns character and in return we can support them now and all year long.