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Two Greencastle gift shops have a change in ownership

March 22, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

It's like musical gift shops in Greencastle these days, and it takes a scorecard to keep track of which ones are coming and which ones are going.

The Shamrock Gift Shoppe at 11 E. Baltimore St., a downtown landmark for 11 years, closed in February. Its owners, Richard and Patricia McCracken, decided it was time to leave the day-to-day hustle and bustle, said Leisa McCracken, 30, of Mercersburg, Pa., the McCrackens' daughter-in-law.

The shop specialized in Yankee Candles, gifts and collectibles, and also kept a few antiques around for sale, Leisa McCracken said.

She worked in the store for a year and a half. She's taking over the space being vacated by her in-laws to open her own shop, which she's calling Willowtree Gifts. It will have its own line of gifts and collectibles, she said.

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West of the borough's public square at 30 W. Baltimore St., Carol Van Horn and Deb Negley, partners in the Little Red Sled gift shop, are also going out of business. Their last day will be Saturday.

"We've been here for six years," Van Horn said. "We have nothing to complain about. The shop did well."

Van Horn said the store was a success despite the fact it was a block from the borough's active business district in the first few blocks of East Baltimore Street.

"People found us," she said.

Like the McCrackens, Van Horn and Negley want to get away from the daily grind of running a retail store.

Negley said she will take landscaping and computer classes. Van Horn, who worked for three years in the Shamrock Gift Shoppe before she and Negley became partners, said nine years in the business was enough.

"I want time to decide what I want to do," Negley said.

The store at 30 W. Baltimore St. won't be vacant long. Betina Beard plans to open a gift shop specializing in French country gifts on the premises in May, Van Horn said. The shop will be called Betina's Briese, she said.

The partners are considering selling the name of the store and the sign to Louann Suder, who plans to open a gift shop at 35 E. Baltimore St. in June.

The Hodge Podge, a gift shop at 17 N. Washington St., also closed recently, said Dana Given, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce. She didn't have details, and the shop's telephone number had been disconnected.

Empty storefronts "go like hotcakes," Given said. "Everybody's looking at Greencastle. There are a number of people who are looking to open different kind of shops and business downtown."

"We're close to Interstate 81 and we're a growing community," Given said. "It's like stepping back in time. Our storekeepers have time for you. People refer to Greencastle as Mayberry (from "The Andy Griffith Show" about a slow, rural southern town) and we take that as a compliment."

"It's hard to say what it is about Greencastle," Mayor Red Pensinger said. "We're a small town with niche shops and people from out of town like to come here. Greencastle has always been like that. There's always been people who want to do business downtown. I don't know what its secret is, if there is a secret."

Leisa McCracken said Greencastle has great storefronts and its streets are busy.

"We have traffic in here every day," she said.

Van Horn and Negley said destination stores like ELM Shoes on the square, the Antrim House, a popular downtown restaurant, Wolf's Bakery and Greencastle Coffee Roasters all help bring people downtown.

"There's enough shops to keep people coming in," Negley said.

Business owners can belong to the Greencastle-Antrim Merchants Association, a group that helps to organize promotions and sidewalk sales and assists merchants with business problems like dealing with bad checks, Negley said.

The association meets every other month. Lester Martin at ELM Shoes is the secretary.

"We are a subcommittee of the chamber of commerce. We try to reach out to people and let them know that we're here," Martin said.

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