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Rainbows a hallmark of downtown shop

April 16, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

Rainbows abound in a new shop in downtown Hagerstown.

Geared toward the area's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community, Rainbow Connection opened a month ago and features mugs, jewelry, stickers, T-shirts, stuffed bears, license plate frames, artwork and other items, much of it emblazoned with the rainbow logo that is the symbol of the LGBT community.

Karla Auch, 41, of Hagerstown and her partner of 18 years officially opened the store on March 17.

Planning began much earlier.

"I wanted to open my own business and I figured why not open a store where everybody can find something," Auch said. "I've been playing with the idea for a year now."

Many items in the store would appeal to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

Such items include wooden boats, candles and a large selection of greeting cards for various occasions.

In the future, Auch, said she plans to add fiction and nonfiction books and magazines, and a suggestion she expects to incorporate is to begin a book club.

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She also plans to increase her selection of DVDs and CDs.

The shop does not carry any sex-related items and Auch said she has no plans to add such merchandise.

When Auch decided to pursue her dream of owning a business, she looked only at locations in downtown Hagerstown. She never considered other cities or towns.

"I definitely wanted it in downtown Hagerstown," she said. "It seems like it would fit the area."

Hagerstown has a sizable gay community. The city has the New Light Metropolitan Community Church and a gay bar, Deer Park Lodge, is on National Pike outside of Boonsboro. Another gay bar, H2O, was open downtown but closed in 2003.

Business at Auch's shop has been going well, she said, even though she has held off on advertising until she acquires more inventory.

Adding books has proven to be a challenge, she said, because some distributors want buyers to guarantee they will purchase a certain amount of stock every month or every year.

As the owner of a small business, Auch said, she is not able to make such a commitment and is trying to find companies willing to work with smaller businesses.

Both Auch and her partner continue to work in their other careers and Auch said she does not expect the shop to make a tremendous amount of money.

"I'm doing it more for the community," she said.

Her neighbors in business have been friendly and helpful, and she said she was pleased with city officials and had no hassles from the city.

Still, she worries that others might not appreciate the shop.

When she and her father were leaving one night, a man passing by grumbled that someone should throw a brick through her store's window.

"The (Metropolitan Community) church has never been harassed, has never been vandalized. But it's always in the back of your mind," she said.

She has not had any such problems.

Auch commutes to Rockville, Md., three days a week for her job in the field of electronics. On those days, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, her father works in the shop.

Auch takes over on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Rainbow Connection is closed on Sundays.

As for the rainbow logo, its origins date to 1978, when artist Gilbert Baker created an eight-color flag for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade, according to several sources.

The next year, Baker asked a flag company about mass producing the flag.

Hot pink was eliminated because it was not commercially available, but sources disagree on when and why another color, indigo, was removed from the original design.

Each color has a different meaning.

Red is for life, orange is for healing, yellow is for the sun, green is for nature, royal blue is for harmony and violet is for spirit.

Rainbow Connection is at 14 1/2 E. Washington St., just off Public Square.

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