(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Q: What was your background before opening your business?
A: I majored in art and design at Southeast Missouri State University. I wanted to be an artist. Retail's in my blood; my mother had a bookstore in Dexter. I was a full-time artist from 1987 to 1997 doing calligraphy and house portraits. I had a mail-order business, traveled and did art shows and commissioned work. In 1997, we were in a hot-air balloon crash in Phoenix. I spent two years rehabbing fine motor skills. I had to learn something new, so I took up playing the guitar and took lessons from Kenny Martin at Shivelbine's. I thought, what am I going to do if I couldn't paint or draw? I always knew in my heart I wanted a store on this corner. Mike was working as an insurance agent at the time, and got behind it. I think God gives us dreams. I came to this corner at 13 and just knew. We started just down the street, and my son was friends with the Hales who owned this corner. As soon as it became available, we moved the store. Mike handles the business end, and I do the creative end. We've always wanted to be part of downtown Cape Girardeau. We love the river; we love the charm, and the corner of Broadway and Main is where we've always wanted to be. I think every experience God gives us, every person we encounter, prepares us for the future only God sees.
Q; What do you think is the secret for small business success?
A: There's not really a secret; it's more about following your gut feeling. God gives us ideas, and we work hard and don't give up on our passions. We have good help here. The people who come in the doors and support and encourage us have been big. Relationships are everything. Running the store is like orchestrating a Broadway production. We like to take real life and create vignettes.
A: I would have to know who are you picking it out for. What are their interests? Those are starting points. Some are focused, and know what they want to get, and others don't have a clue. Gifts have to be personal and a good fit for people. When they're satisfied and smile, you know you've succeeded at what you've done.
Q: What do you think about the progress of the downtown revitalization?
A: It's exciting. I always knew the potential for downtown. So many people who live here take this for granted. There is hardly any place like this in the world. What a jewel. Everything will get bigger and better as Cape's natives are starting to see the potential. It's exciting to see that after 30 years, it's coming back. I hear a lot of older people say, "It's almost like it used to be." There are more stores. The Broadway corridor is finished. We've seen a big difference in the past four to six weeks.
Q: What is your vision for the future for downtown Cape Girardeau?
A: Everything is starting to gel. There are more shops, and everything works together to getting back to being a charming shopping area. There are people who stop in from across the country because they want to see the river here, and the charm of downtown can't be duplicated.
Renaissance is about rebirth and renewal of the old, about taking something and seeing it with new eyes and giving it new life. At the start of the year, we are going to do some cosmetic things like painting. I get excited about what I do and am very passionate about it. Sometimes it's hard for people in the area to see the potential of downtown, but when I know something is right, I know. There are great people downtown who all support each other. I am truly living my dream and am thankful and grateful.