Leo and Grabill shops offer unique items and a hometown atmosphere every shopping day.

About four times a year, though, they pull together to add to the incentive to shop at several businesses in one day.

Sam Wendell of Cedar Creek Candles & Gifts was the force behind the Grabill & Leo Shop Hop, Dec. 5-7. A dozen shops signed on for the shared drawing for one lucky shopper.

Wendell operates the 13527 Main St. candle shop along with her mother, Sherrie Eaton, and a sister, Alex Lairson.

“Customers go to each business and the get a card stamped and that enters you to win a basket collectively from all the shops, about $500 worth of items,” Wendell said. “It’s super exciting. It just helps to get the word out about other businesses.”

Several new businesses have opened since the last previous shop hop. “We’re trying to get the word out about other businesses in the area and trying to spread the local love,” she said.

Previous shop hops have connected with shops in other nearby towns, including The Shed, Handcrafted Signs & Gifts, in Spencerville.

She did not work through a formal Chamber of Commerce or retailers association. “This is just an us thing,” she said. “We try to do this four times a year.”

The candle shop also operates a wholesale branch. Wendell and her mother and sister also operate a staffing agency just across the street from the shop.

“We’ve been doing this 20 years. We do a lot of festivals, but we like a place to lay out head,” she said. The company has been at the Main Street location for a little more than a year.

“We’ve seen different shop hops in smaller towns like Middlebury,” Wendell said. “They have some small, local shops and they like to get the word out and draw more people from surrounding area.”

Last spring, she said, “A lot of people who had never heard of us in the surrounding area came in, which is awesome.”

Shops are not required to offer special sales, but the candle shop took the lead there, too. “We do have specials. Our woodwork collection is usually $20 each. We’re doing two for $36,” she said. She described the specials as “just some little, gifty holiday stuff.” Her store also ran a drawing for enrollment in a candlemaking workshop.

Jennifer Greim of New Haven stopped at the shop during her lunch hour Dec. 5 for some Christmas presents. “I’ve been here before, and everyone loves candles and I love these candles,” she said. “And it’s better to give a gift that’s from the local area, so I enjoy shopping locally.”

Lucy Fisher of Aboite Township and her daughter Norah, 3, examined several colors and fragrances of candles. “I’ve participated in other Grabill area shop hops before and this is always my first stop and then I wander to other places,” she said. “I usually don’t finish the whole thing, but this (shop) has always been of of my favorites.”

“I discovered Cedar Creek Candles when they were over in the Leo Crossing area, and I followed them up here,” she said. “I may pop into a couple other places around here but this is always my first stop.”

Participating shops included Cedar Creek Candles & Gifts, Catalpa Tree, Graceful De-Signs, Gracey’s Goodies, H. Souders Store & Sons, Leo Paw Shop, My Heart & Home, Old Church Shoppe, Sucasa Salon and the Country Shops of Grabill.

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