New store continues local beautification efforts

NAPPANEE — Indiana and the Midwest are filled with small cities whose downtowns are plagued by shuttered stores and the sad, longing memories of what once was.
Nappanee has bucked that trend. With a unique mix of cultures and commerce, and pride in storefront appearance, the city is a monument to what small-town America still can be.
For Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce and Redevelopment Commission Executive Director Larry Andrews, just walking around each day brings a smile.
“I’ll be retiring at the end of the year, and one of the things I’m most proud of is how we’ve worked together to come up with a sense of community pride, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Andrews said. “I think the people in Nappanee know they have something special here and now understand why visitors and tourists would want to come to Nappanee. There is something attractive here that you don’t find everywhere.”
Veni’s Sweet Shop has continued Nappanee’s sprucing-up. The new gourmet candy store recently received the Chamber’s Beautification Award for its appealing addition to the downtown marketplace.
“We certainly appreciate this award and we are very happy to be here in Nappanee,” store owner Weldon Miller said.
Andrews credits Nappanee’s vision several years ago in becoming a “business improvement district,” which downtown businesses all contribute to as part of their property taxes.
“That money all goes to a fund to improve downtown, and there’s an assessment of each building owner,” Andrews said. “A lot of the changes you now see were assisted through that money as a grant. And when your neighbors’ store looks good and yours doesn’t, it can encourage them to make some improvements, too.”
Andrews said around 20 upgrade projects have been completed using the program, and that the business community has acted as a family.
“There is a real sense of cooperation,” Andrews said. “We’ve been through the tornado, economic downturns, and people know we have to work together. When you do things alone, it can be hard getting things accomplished, but if 60 retailers downtown get together, it’s much easier.”