Local Matters with Mel McMahon | Missy Krulik, The Heart of Lebanon and Claire Collett, Boone County Economic Development Corporation

“Local Matters” brings you incredible stories about Indiana Owned businesses and community members making a positive impact in Indiana. I’m Mel McMahon, co-founder of Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts, and today, we are chatting with Missy Krulik of The Heart of Lebanon and Claire Collett of Boone County Economic Development Corporation. We’ll talk about the influence of entrepreneurship in both of their roles, the appetite for more locally businesses in Lebanon, and how Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts ended up on Main Street. It’s all about our mission–creating healthier stronger communities and more jobs in Indiana through the support of local. thanks for listening.”

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Mel McMahon Stone: Local Matters brings you incredible stories about Indiana-owned businesses and community members making a positive impact in Indiana. I’m Mel McMahon, Co-Founder of Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts, and today we’re chatting with Missy Krulik of The Heart of Lebanon and Claire Collett of Boone County Economic Development Corporation. We’ll talk about the influence of entrepreneurship in both of their roles, the appetite for more local businesses in Lebanon, and how Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts got to Main Street. It’s all about our mission: creating healthier, stronger communities and more jobs in Indiana through the support of local. Thanks for listening.

Voiceover: You’re listening to Local Matters, brought to you by Indiana Owned. Find local at indianaowned.com.

Mel McMahon Stone: Missy and Claire, welcome to Local Matters. I’m so excited to have you on our newest episode!

Claire Collett: Thanks for having us!

Mel McMahon Stone: I want to start with who you are exactly, and what you do in your role. Because I don’t know that a lot of people know what The Heart of Lebanon is, or know, really, what an economic development corporation does. So Missy, we’re gonna start with you. Tell us about your role at The Heart of Lebanon and your mission.

Missy Krulik: My name is Missy Krulik. I’m the Executive Director of The Heart of Lebanon. And we are a nationally-accredited Main Street Organization. So, what we’re charged with is revitalization of our downtown, which really strengthens the community as a whole. So, we do several things throughout the year to support our community, and support the businesses that are in our district. And just have a lot of fun doing it!

Mel McMahon Stone: And what does your district encompass? Where, kind of, is your boundary in Lebanon?

Missy Krulik: Yeah. We are charged with the historic district, which when Main Streets came about, they saw real decline in the heritage in our downtowns. Urban sprawl was starting. Businesses were moving out of the downtown, and we were kind of losing our identity as a community— when we no longer went to our downtowns—and our downtowns were dying. Our buildings were becoming dilapidated and empty. And someone saw this and thought, ‘this is not the direction our communities need to be going.’ So National Main Street was formed, and they lead us and guide us in bringing people back to our downtown, bringing our businesses back downtown. So that, when people come to our community—they drive through our main streets and our historic districts—they see a vibrant community, full of life.

Mel McMahon Stone: Lebanon is a part of Boone County, which you concentrate on the entire county, Claire. Tell us about what your role is at the Boone County Economic Development Corporation which, from this point forward, we will call Boone County EDC.

Claire Collett: Or you can even shorten it—Boone EDC. There you go. Makes it easier. 

Mel McMahon Stone: There you go, we’ll make it even shorter.

Claire Collett: We love acronyms in the economic-development world. So, that’s totally fine. Um, let me take a little bit of a step back and do a little bit of a bigger overview. So, the Boone EDC—we are contracted, like Mel said, with the county and also the municipalities within Boone County to do their economic development and be, kind of, like their local marketing agency too. So with that being said, we do business attraction, expansion efforts, and we also are a connector of resources. There are so many resources out there, and we kind of help narrow that down. And we also are just their liaison, and cheerleader, and supporter. Boone County is something that we are incredibly passionate about, and we want to share that with our existing companies and our new companies, and whether that be small or large, we want to welcome them all, so.

Mel McMahon Stone: So Claire, what is your role with the EDC?

Claire Collett: So, I focus on business-attraction efforts. But I also focus—really, mainly—on small-business attraction, and also making sure that they are connected to the right resources. I work closely with Missy to help revitalize the downtown too because it fits within our role. We see, you know, empty storefronts. And so, we go out and vet people and create a home for them here in our downtowns. And so, that’s something that I really focus on. We also have a microloan program. So, we also provide those wraparound resources—not only to give people a home, provide them support, and connecting them to resources—to be successful here.

Mel McMahon Stone: Claire, is this something you always thought you were going to do when you were little, or what did you want to be when you grew up? I feel like this is a very unique position that not a lot of people know even exists.

Claire Collett: Yeah, um. It’s interesting because whenever I was little, I thought I would be a lawyer. My dad—I like to argue—he’s like, ‘You would be really, really great at doing, going to law school!’ And so, I grew up in a household with two entrepreneurs. Both my parents started their own businesses. And so, I empathize with people that are in those spaces and understand the barriers and challenges to be successful as an entrepreneur. And so, I feel like I’ve always surrounded myself in that, sort of, community. And then whenever I went to Butler, I was able to start and run my own company there through their programs, which was an amazing experience, and I learned a ton. Did I think that I was going to be in this position in my mid 20s? No, I honestly thought I was going to be an event planner because I liked the operational side of things. So this is, this job has been such a big blessing in my life, and I learn something new every single day, which has been really, really fun and cool. So.

Mel McMahon Stone: Missy, what about you? Did you say, ‘Yes, I’m gonna be the Executive Director and revitalize downtown one day?’

Missy Krulik: No. You know, the events of my life have brought me here. And I feel like the cliffs that I’ve jumped up in my life have prepared me for this. I am really interested in history. My mom, growing up, researched genealogy. So, she did family history; so I spent a lot of time in the basements of libraries, looking through books. Back then, you couldn’t Google search; there wasn’t such a thing. So, you had to sit in a library and just go through volumes of books and papers to find histories of families in your community. So, I have a deep passion for history and historic places, so. And then, I’ve also been an entrepreneur. So I know what these businesses face every day. Especially (personally) I had a business here in the downtown. So, I know what that is like; to sit in a business all day and hope customers come in the door. And it’s something that I enjoy doing, and helping these small businesses.

Mel McMahon Stone: Missy, what makes Lebanon so special? Why do you put so much time and effort—you put on almost forty events a year, plus you’re writing the grants, you’re going to these meetings, you’re being a connector—what, and I—let’s be honest—it’s a nonprofit, I know you’re not, you know, making buku bucks doing this. Why is what you do so important to you and to our community?

Missy Krulik: I think Lebanon is a special place. I think that it’s rich in community; it just needs a little bit of help bringing it together. I really enjoy preserving our buildings. You know, like I said, I’m really into the history of our square. This is not my hometown; I relocated here about twenty-four years ago. And, just  as I researched the history of this town (or city), it’s rich in culture. It has a rich entrepreneur history. So those are just things that I enjoy and think that are special about Lebanon. We’re full of dreamers, I always say; this is where dreamers come to build their dream. And I want to support that. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Mel McMahon Stone: And why do areas like this need an advocate? Why do we need these Main Street Organizations?

Missy Krulik: Because someone needs to focus on this revitalization effort. Everybody has different interests in a community, and somebody always needs a champion, right? And so, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to champion for the downtown: the historic nature that it brings to a community, the culture, the community at large, and the businesses that surround our courthouse square,  our historic courthouse square. So.

Claire Collett:  I just want to pop in, real quick, and say that Missy’s role is so crucial because these small business owners are the ones that are supporting your little leagues. They are supporting your local groups, organizations, and nonprofits, and getting involved. They are the voice of the community. And to have someone to provide wraparound resources, to provide them with education on local governments and (all of that fun stuff), it’s essential because sometimes these people don’t get a platform to speak and to express their challenges, barriers, and concerns. I think Missy’s role is so important to a downtown. And without a thriving downtown, nobody wants to live there. I’m just going to be honest. I mean it is, it is the heart. It is.

Mel McMahon Stone: It is. And Claire, with what you do with Boone County EDC—you know, your work touches Lebanon, but also Advance, Jamestown, Zionsville, Whitestown (I’m sorry if I left out very tiny towns. I drove through Dover this morning. Shout out to Dover.)—so tell us how these little towns and what their efforts are doing affect the county as a whole. Because there’s a lot going on in Boone County right now.

Claire Collett: Correct. I love little small towns. So, I grew up in Seymour, Indiana; amazing downtown—so fun, so vibrant—but at one point, it wasn’t. And without a mainstream organization, I don’t know if it would have come back. And so, with our more rural communities, I’m trying to help them watch Missy, and watch her grow this downtown. I want to do that walk with them, you know? I want to provide them with the support to have the confidence to bring in new businesses  and fill in empty storefronts. Because these smaller communities have so much to offer that Indianapolis doesn’t; it’s just it’s a different community. And that is totally fine. Indianapolis is great. I used to live downtown and loved it. But it’s not like living in Jamestown, Advance, or Thorntown. It’s just different. And so, I think being able to express the different communities is so important. It just gets me really excited because there’s so much opportunity.

Mel McMahon Stone: Well, you can hear your smile. I’m so happy to see it too, right? Because this is very hard work. But we got to have that excitement to get these communities thriving. Right? And that’s what Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts is all about. And when we come back, we’ll talk about how Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts became connected with Missy and Claire, and also talk about where we’ve been the last six months, since we had a new episode. This is Local Matters. We’ve been chatting with Missy Krulik of The Heart of Lebanon and Claire Collett of Boone County Economic Development Corporation, also known as Boone EDC. For those of you that don’t know, my businesses—Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts—are both in Lebanon now; 101 East Main Street. Finally manifested that main street address that I’ve always wanted. But I did not get here on my own. So Claire, what made you reach out to us in the first place?

Claire Collett: Oh, I get on a good Instagram rabbit hole of finding businesses, reaching out, and having a conversation. I like to deem myself as a plant seeder. I’m like: ‘Hey, is this a good idea? Have you thought about this?’ And I just wanted to reach out, hear more about your story, and what your goals are, and see if there was an opportunity to bring you to Boone County. And I didn’t know you were already in Boone County. So it kind of worked out really well, oddly enough. I just cold emailed you, you read my email, and we met. I followed up because that’s  the important part of my job; following through on things and providing you with opportunities. Maybe if they’re not a good fit, but at least you’re aware of them.

Mel McMahon Stone: So if you’re new to the podcast, for the last four years, we’ve been headquartered in Carmel. We were at 99th and Michigan Road in this weird area where the building across the street used Indianapolis as their address. I had a Carmel address, but if my mailbox was on the other side of the building, I would have had a Zionsville address. Being all about community, I’ve kind of felt like a fish out of water, right? I didn’t really feel like I fit anywhere. In March of 2020, my family—we— moved from 79th and Michigan Road to Western Boone County. We live in the middle of nowhere. We have a Jamestown address. Over the last few years, so much has gone virtual. If it’s not virtual, I’m really heading to a destination, right? People aren’t coming to my office to meet me. My husband, Lance, and I, we just kind of had a conversation about how I was driving to Carmel so our youngest could go to daycare. You know, it was like, ‘Why are we doing all of this stuff in Carmel? We should be doing it in our community.’ Right? We live here. We play here. I want to work here. Two days later, I get this email from Claire, and I never see my emails. Right? So, I just happened to see this one, and I did reply with a little bit of hesitation because I’ve worked with economic development community people before, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. Right? But I agreed to meet with Claire. She did not hate me for being late to our meeting or for the bee incident; there was a bee at our luncheon that made things a little complicated. There were so many bees at lunch! But she told me her goals for Boone County. I told her what we wanted to do. She started selling me on Boone County. Then I was like, ‘Wait, Claire. I already live in Boone County. I want to be in Boone County.’ She told me she was going to start working on things. She learned about Indiana Gifts, and she said she would get back to me. To my surprise, two days or three days later, I had a text message that said, ‘Hey, I want you to meet Missy. I think we found you a space.’ So, talk a little bit about that conversation with Missy and how you brought all of us together, Claire.

Claire Collett: I can do my side and then Missy can do hers. So after our conversation in Zionsville, I approached Missy. I was like, ‘Hey, you know you have this really awesome space. I know you had a vision for an artist to come in and do a pop-up shop and display their art. I love that vision. Is there an opportunity to, kind of, flip that vision and do a pop-up shop for retail?’ Because that is a target industry that we’ve been trying to get in our downtowns, and it’s much needed. She went back to her board and I think it was, maybe, one or two meetings, and then they drafted a agreement. We proposed it to you, Mel, and it worked. I thought it was a pretty easy process because Missy is so flexible and open to new innovative ideas. Maybe her perspective i s a little bit different. I don’t know. Missy and I have such a good working relationship that I think we can make deals happen pretty quickly because we are open and communicating often.

Mel McMahon Stone: Missy, what did you think when Claire approached you with this idea?

Missy Krulik: Yeah. I had had in my mind that we wanted to bring some more art downtown. I had in mind this Heart Art Studio and Gallery. So she came to me with this, and I had to, you know, think a little bit about it. But I remembered what Main Street’s mission is, and it’s to revitalize the downtown. What better way to revitalize the downtown, but bring in businesses? And it was a chance for us to see if it was going to work, and help a business see if our downtown was going to be viable enough for them to sustain going somewhere else and paying rent in our downtown. So, I just saw it as an opportunity. You know, just flipping it over a little bit; changing, you know, what I had in my mind. But then also, I was sharing my space. It’s not the pop-up area, the artist’s studio that I had in mind is a shared space with my office. So, and in particular, we share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. So you know, it was gonna have to be somebody that I would trust, you know, in my space, and then also somebody I could tolerate in my space, because I’m here working. So, you know, I had to think about it. Of course, I had to go to the board; had to tell them, you know, what we had planned, and get their okay on it, and see what they wanted to do. So—but again—I mean, it fell in line with the Main Street mission, which is revitalization and supporting small businesses.

Mel McMahon Stone: It was an amazing opportunity for Indiana Gifts. Everything that we have at shopindianagifts.com had been in a closet. Right? It wasn’t really on display. People couldn’t appreciate it the way that I wanted to. The chance to put it in a brick-and-mortar location, and let people see it, and touch it, and feel it, was huge for us. Once we had the paperwork signed, we had a goal of having a soft opening for Mischief on Meridian, which (first time there), I didn’t even know we had that many people in Lebanon. It was insane. It was so much fun. I’m pretty sure I ran out of candy to give the trick-or-treaters, like, three or four times. So, we will be better prepared for this year. But we put this little store—this very charming little store—together in, about, five days, and the support of the community here blew my mind. November was insane. December was insane. So much so that, we knew we wanted to make Lebanon—and Main Street—our permanent home. And that took us to a whole new part of this journey, which was finding a space. There’s a lot of factors in finding a space, right? You not only need to think of square footage, but you have to think of your rent, utilities, and your investment in getting the space to be your own. ‘How much can you afford?’ I had holiday numbers that I was basing these decisions on, but I knew that January and February—for retail—are not the best. So, what do you do? And stars aligning again; Christine, from Boone County Candle Company, let me know that she was thinking about giving up her space. She had this great corner location at Main and Meridian, just on the other side of Missy; so literally, one address down. It could not have worked out better. Right? We have our charming little store downstairs. I have a very cool loft office upstairs; I call it the basement, but it’s really the attic. And so now we have Indiana Owned and Indiana Gifts on Main Street in Lebanon, which—for me—is a dream come true. To see the reaction from the community when they thought we left because we still have our signage on the old storefront (but we’ve just moved over one), I think that’s a true testament to the support that you can find in Lebanon and in Boone County. I just want to thank both of you for helping make this happen because you throw ideas out there, you put it in the universe, but you don’t ever do it by yourself. Without the two of you, this would not have been possible. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And thank you for my family too. I love being able to work, play, and live in my community.

Claire Collett: We’re glad to have you.

Missy Krulik: Well yeah, thanks for taking a chance on Lebanon. Right? And I think, you know, people in Lebanon are hungry. They’re hungry for community: to be in community, and to support the small businesses that are within our community. So yeah, Lebanon is full of great people—great, supportive people—who are hungry. They just want to experience community, and they want to have a place that they can call their own, and not have to travel the next city over. So I think it’s great that you took a chance on Lebanon and the downtown, and that you decided that you wanted to be here.

Mel McMahon Stone: Well, I’m excited you kept me because, you know, this first couple of days when I needed you to go unlock the door because my kiddo locked the bottom lock (we don’t have a key for), and got trapped in the bathroom. And all of those things. None of this would have been possible without you, Missy. So, thank you for your support! And, you know, it’s been a lot of fun getting to know the other business owners around, and it’s been fun to brainstorm and, kind of, dream about what we would love to see here. So Claire, what’s on your radar for businesses you would like to see in Boone County? And Missy, what’s on your radar, specifically for the square?

Claire Collett: Boone County (as a whole): I would like to replicate this success story in our more rural communities. So, discussions have been made. I keep a pretty good pulse on real estate and what’s being available. So, Advance has (amazing, amazing) all the bank space; I would love to see a business in there, right next to Jawbone. The space is amazing; like, it is so cute, and quaint.

Mel McMahon Stone: It’s beautiful!

Claire Collett: I’d also like a wine bar or something in there, or a tattoo shop. Tattoo artists are really hard to get a hold of. So, I’ve been going on rabbit holes on Facebook. I’m trying to reach out to people to just plant the seed, once again. I mean, I’m always curating something new, but I’m also working with the community to understand what they want. That is important too. I can’t assume that they want a tattoo shop, or a wine bar, or retail space. I want to give community members, elected officials—anybody that works for a town or city—a platform to tell me what they would like to see because that is important too. So I bring those two components to fruition, and start those conversations. And hopefully, we can land a couple of really great, small business owners in the community.

Mel McMahon Stone: Missy, what about you?

Missy Krulik: Yeah. So definitely, I would like to see more restaurants, more retail—just more things for the community to do—in our downtown. I want this to be their third place; I want them to go to work, I want them to go home, and I want them to come downtown. So I need things for them to do while they’re in downtown. So, we have quite a few buildings that are vacant. But unfortunately, they are not in a condition that a business can come in (a small business can come in) and set up shop. They need some work; they’re historic buildings, built in the early 1900s (some before) that need some TLC, especially in the storefront. So, you know, working with the city and working with Boone EDC, you know, we’re we’re on a path to be able to develop more of those downtown storefronts so that we can have businesses come in (small businesses come in) set up shop, and provide a place for our residents and visitors to come to in the downtown. So, I would love to see small business—not chains, but small businesses— that is something unique to the community. Also, something for families to do. You know, my big dream is a museum—a children’s museum—or, you know, just something that would engage families in our downtown.

Mel McMahon Stone: Well, with the two of you at the helm, I have no doubt that we will have a lot of improvement here in Lebanon in the years to come. Besides our blog at indianaowned.com in the show notes of this episode, where do we find out more about you, and how do we support your causes? Claire, what’s your contact info?

Claire Collett: So, our website is betterinboone.org. Or you can email me; it’s claire@betterinboone.org. Feel free to shoot me an email! I’m always down to listen to great ideas.

Mel McMahon Stone: And she actually answers her emails. So, helpful! Missy, what about you?

Missy Krulik: Yeah, you can find out more about The Heart of Lebanon and what our mission is on heartoflebanon.org. Or you can email me at info@heartoflebanon.org. Or you can come and see me, right next to Indiana Gifts, downtown on the square on Main Street.

Mel McMahon Stone: Right. It doesn’t get more local than Main and Meridian, does it?

Claire Collett: True.

Mel McMahon Stone: Ladies, thank you so much for being our guests today. And, especially, on our latest episode because we’ve had a break for a while. So I’m excited to, kind of, explain where we’ve been and what’s going on. 

Claire Collett: Thanks for the opportunity. 

Mel McMahon Stone: And thank you for listening to Local Matters, made possible by Indiana Owned, Indiana Gifts, and, our new website sponsor, Jiffy Lube of Indiana. It’s an honor to bring you incredible stories about Indiana-owned businesses making a positive impact in Indiana, and to the entrepreneurs and community members leading the way. Find local businesses near you, or get your business Certified Local at indianaowned.com. I’m Mel McMahon and, until next time, keep supporting local.

Voiceover: Thanks for listening to Local Matters, brought to you by Indiana Owned. Find local now at indianaowned.com.