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Downtown Carlisle retailers experience success despite hurdles

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Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, left, owner of Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy & Gifts in Carlisle, boxes some designer chocolates for Susan Weaver of Mechanicsburg. The candy store opened its new location Dec. 12 after a two-month delay, Gilbert said.
Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, left, owner of Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy & Gifts in Carlisle, boxes some designer chocolates for Susan Weaver of Mechanicsburg. The candy store opened its new location Dec. 12 after a two-month delay, Gilbert said. - (Photo / Jim T. Ryan)

You do pretty much everything as a small-business owner, and sometimes you find out even the things you thought should be easiest don't go as planned.

That's been the last two and a half months for Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, the owner of Georgie Lou's Retro Candy & Gifts, as she endeavored to move her store from North Pitt Street to the busy corner of Pitt and High streets in Carlisle. After a more than two-month delay, Gilbert finally opened Georgie Lou's at 56 W. High St. on Dec. 12.

It's a bigger, high-visibility location that was designed for retail, she said. But that doesn't mean it was easy movin' up.

"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Gilbert said recently, as she waited on the constant stream of customers browsing her store, buying candies or selecting designer chocolates from the display case.

The furniture that she ordered for customers to sit on was late. When the pieces did arrive, they were the wrong ones.

The walls and shelves had to be painted twice because of mistakes.

A soda cooler arrived late, then wouldn't fit in the door.

A water leak caused damage to the new laminate flooring.

"I thought we were going to miss the Christmas season," Gilbert said, "and that's a big time for us."

Gilbert wanted to open Georgie Lou's by early October, but that didn't happen. Devoted patrons kept her spirits up while they worked through the problems, she said.

"I've got great Facebook fans," Gilbert said. "They love the store history and have been so supportive."

The wait was worth it, she said. The new shop, about 1,400 square feet, is nearly twice the size of her old store, meaning more room for inventory. And the visibility on Carlisle's main drag has paid off with a flood of patrons to make the first week in the new location a success, Gilbert said.

The building is owned by the Tuckey family, who also own Middlesex Township-based contractors The Tuckey Cos. Gilbert said the Tuckeys have gone out of their way to help ready the space for Georgie Lou's opening, including doing a lot of the building renovation work at minimum expense.

That meant Gilbert could spend more of her budget stocking and decorating the store.

"There are more of those landlords, who now understand that if they invest, they'll help their (tenant) businesses," she said.

South Side Deli also moved into a larger space at 46 W. High St. this year, and owner Billy Barnett said business has been good at the new location. It also is owned by the Tuckeys.

Barnett said working with them has helped get the business off the ground because they're very responsive to the tenant's needs.

"We definitely don't regret the move," Barnett said.

Matt Tuckey, the business development director at Tuckey Cos., said they want tenants that can grow Carlisle's downtown. And when they find those businesses, it's worth working together.

"We want to work collaboratively with tenants to develop a long-term relationship where they are helping us to sustain the success and viability of the property," Tuckey said in an email, "and where we can help them as a catalyst for the continued growth and success of their business."

The growing businesses and responsive landlords that Carlisle has experienced during the last couple years are immensely beneficial to the downtown district, said Glenn White, executive director of the Downtown Carlisle Association.

"I'm seeing a young generation of property owners renovating and understanding the renaissance of downtown," White said.

DCA has helped eight businesses with new signs through its sign grant program, he said. The program contributes half of the price of a new external sign, up to $300. The association also worked with the companies that make the signs for businesses to ensure they meet the expectations of Carlisle's Historic Area Review Board.

DCA provided a sign grant to South Side Deli, but not Georgie Lou's, White said.

It's good to see businesses that have moved having success in their new locations, he said. Between them and the landlords, there's a renewed civic pride in Carlisle. DCA wants to help expand that, he said.

"There are people willing to put time into this town," White said, "and invest because they believe."

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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