Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce hosts ribbon-tying ceremonies for two new businesses

DOWAGIAC — A pair of Dowagiac businesses that opened during the early stages of the pandemic last year were finally able to celebrate with the community.

The Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce hosted “ribbon tying” ceremonies for Sandy & Rachel’s Massage Therapy, 103 Commercial St., and Mariah’s Closet, 113 Commercial St., Wednesday to officially welcome the businesses to the community.

The two businesses opened their doors last spring, but ribbon-cutting ceremonies were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce is excited to be able to host an event again,” said Chamber President Kris Soenen, owner of Who Knew? Consignment. “We want to acknowledge that we have these two new businesses in town and show our support for them because it has been a long, tough year. Credit to both of these women that they’ve survived their first year in business and that it was a COVID year in business. To celebrate that is exciting for all of us. Hopefully, the community will come out and support them further.”

Several chamber and community members were on hand for the celebrations, including Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons. Instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, Soenen and the chamber used a ribbon tying ceremony to signify the businesses and the community coming together as one.

“It’s symbolic of showing that we’re all in this together,” Soenen said. “The business owner, the staff, the community, the city of Dowagiac and the chamber of commerce are together in providing a network, support and resources to a business in town. We’re excited.”

The celebration was a welcome one for Sandy & Rachel’s owner Rachel Jurgenson, a licensed medical massage therapist with more than 10 years of experience.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “Dowagiac has really brought us in, almost like a family feel. We had been in Jones, Michigan, for 15 years, so to move here not knowing many people was like stepping off a cliff. But the community really has 100 percent supported us, and I fell in love with Dowagiac.”

Sandy & Rachel’s offers a variety of therapy options, including Swedish, sports therapy, deep tissue, cupping and reiki. Jurgenson said she would one day like to open a wellness center to help the community.

“We could help people with nutrition, acupuncture, massage, everything to bring in that holistic feel,” she said. “It’s really our passion to help people. I love that we’re able to do that here and people are receptive to and supportive of that.”

For Mariah’s Closet owner Beth Clark, the ceremony was a long time coming. Clark started her purse and handbag business online in 2017, naming the venture after her stillborn daughter, Mariah. In 2020, Clark took the plunge to open a brick and mortar storefront. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially delayed the store’s open, Clark said she is happy to still be selling in Dowagiac one year after opening.

“It’s my dream come true,” said Clark as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Clark has big plans on the way, including plans to build a clothing line.

“We want to reach not only Dowagiac, but we want to be nationwide,” she said. “We’re coast to coast at this point. We have purses and handbags in probably 37 states. We ship all over the country.”

Mariah’s Closet does its best to impact the community. In June of last year, Clark created “Bagged 4 Kids,” a fundraising project aiming to supply students with backpacks and school supplies. The first phase of the project raised more than $300, with Mariah’s Closet matching to total more than $600.

The funds allowed Clark to purchase 96 backpacks, which were then filled with school supplies for students.

“Anything we do, we want it centered towards kids,” she said. “The kids in the community need resources more than anybody, They’re the future.”

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