Marion Merchants group provides possibility for growth
When Jerry Mendoza, managing partner at Dorothy’s Tea House in Marion, joined the Marion Merchants in April, he was unsure what he brought to the table.
“I can’t offer anything because I’m an outsider, I don’t know Marion,” he said. “That was actually a benefit to me because they’re doing this after years of being here, and I could bring in fresh eyes.”
The group has only been around since March, but figuring out Marion’s identity as a brand will is an important step, said Tammy Ensey, proprietor of the Elgin Hotel.
“I think it’s unique in what we have to offer,” she said. “We have things to do outdoors, historical points of interest, and some nice shops.”
Mendoza, who moved to Marion in September, wasn’t originally sure how the teahouse would do in Marion.
“Our biggest concern was whether there was enough business,” he said. “Do people come in from outside Marion, or outside Hillsboro for us to have enough traffic?”
One benefit he found as a small business was being able to use word of mouth in a tight-knit community, Mendoza said.
“It cuts down on your marketing and advertising costs,” he said. “As a small business, you don’t have a large allocation of it anyway.”
Having a central group to share information would make discussion between businesses more efficient, Ensey said.
“I want some mechanism where we can communicate and collaborate amongst ourselves,” she said. “Whenever I have an idea or a question, I don’t have a group I can go to.”
Having a common place where businesses can communicate about noteworthy occurrences is an important part of what the group can do, economic development director Randy Collett said.
“For me, the merchants association is less about changing Marion’s brand than it is about getting everyone together and making sure we’re on the same page,” he said.
One challenge with all volunteers is that no one is an expert from the start, Ensey said. Even for Collett, marketing is only part of the job, Ensey said.
“None of us are in a key role where our job is to market,” she said. “There’s a portion of economic development that’s about marketing, but I wouldn’t say that’s the main part of Randy’s job.”
While not his sole duty as economic development director, taking part in the group is an important facet, Collett said.
“My title is economic development, but I suspect the mayor, council and city administrator would say it has elements of community development,” he said. “The community development is where the Marion Merchants has come in.”
Despite having a limited panel of seven to 10 members, that number is expected to grow as the group gains credibility, Ensey said.
“I can’t make them come,” she said. “At the end of the day, I think they’ll come when they see we’re doing something that has a purpose and gets results.”
Ensey said Marion needs some kind of group, but she’s unsure if it has to be a chamber of commerce.
“When there’s funding involved and a board, sometimes you get caught up in the politics instead of getting results,” she said. “You get caught up in the process. My hope is that with this small group we can get results immediately.”
Last modified May 16, 2019