Ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomes two businesses

NAPPANEE — A big weekend kicked off Friday with ribbon-cutting ceremonies downtown which celebrated two side-by-side businesses and family operations.
The Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Veni’s Sweet Shop (101 W. Market St.) and Thai Expressions (101 1/2 W. Market St.) in a joint celebration.
“We want to welcome these great businesses to Nappanee,” Chamber executive director Larry Andrews said. “It is wonderful to have such high-quality stores in our downtown.”
Veni’s Sweet Shop opened in Niles, Mich. in 1910, but this is its first satellite store.
“It’s kind of an experiment, I guess, and obviously we hope it goes well,” owner Weldon Miller said. “We’re very happy to be here.”
The shop offers over 100 varieties of top-quality chocolates in addition to gourmet hard candies, caramel apples, sodas and more. The massive selection is meticulously arranged in showcases, and Veni’s also specializes in custom orders.
When Miller and his family decided to start the business, the choice of venue was key.
“We just felt this was a great location,” Miller said of the corner spot. “This is where we want to be and everything just fell together for us.”
Thai Expressions features an extensive array of ornate, hand-made furniture and furnishings from Thailand. Longtime Nappanee residents, owner Collier Berkshire and most of his immediate family recently lived in Thailand for three years, and he personally travels there to select the store’s inventory.
“I buy enough stuff to fill a 20-foot or 40-foot container,” said Berkshire, who had just returned the previous evening from a trip to Thailand. “It ships to Los Angeles then by rail to Chicago then down to here. Living over there I decided that we had to bring this stuff over and start a business, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Many of the store’s offerings are made from strikingly crafted Thai teak wood.
“This is different than the stuff that’s imported from China,” Berkshire said. “The Thai people are known for their craftsmanship and quality, and you can see it in every piece.
“Also, these are not made in sweat-shops. These are honest craftsmen who do it for a living.”
Nappanee Mayor Larry Thompson said the establishments continue the city’s progress in downtown commerce diversity and beauty.
“We talk about our gateways right downtown, and it’s just fabulous,” Thompson said.