X

Shop owner lauded as Hamilton’s Small Business Person of the Year

Sara Vallandingham, left, owner of Sara’s House, hands out a goodie bag in her store during an Alive After 5 event in downtown Hamilton in June 2015, the first time area shops, restaurants and organizations held the event, which Vallandingham helped create. She’s set to be honored Aug. 22 by the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce as 2017 Small Business Person of the Year. NICK GRAHAM/2015
Sara Vallandingham, left, owner of Sara’s House, hands out a goodie bag in her store during an Alive After 5 event in downtown Hamilton in June 2015, the first time area shops, restaurants and organizations held the event, which Vallandingham helped create. She’s set to be honored Aug. 22 by the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce as 2017 Small Business Person of the Year. NICK GRAHAM/2015

The Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Person of the Year is a woman who helped pave the way for economic growth and promote revitalization in downtown Hamilton, nominators say.

Sara Vallandingham, owner of Sara’s House, started the business in 2012 at Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield Twp., then moved it to High Street in downtown Hamilton just two years later, growing a large and loyal customer base, including more than 3,500 Facebook followers.

FIRST COVERAGE: New business offers home decorating options

The business was one of the first small businesses to return to the Central Business District when revitalization efforts start to increase, according to city officials.

“As such, this business is often one of the first that people think of when they think of shopping downtown Hamilton,” said Jordan Schotz, an economic development fellow for the City of Hamilton, one of three people who nominated Vallandingham for the award. “The location of Sara’s House at one of the most important corners in downtown Hamilton have helped changed the perception of Hamilton as a drive-through town to a destination to live, work and play.”

Sara’s House also been featured on numerous regional and national publications about things to do in the city and the region, including Country Living’s “25 Under-the-Radar Midwestern Towns for Girlfriend Getaways.”

RELATED: Hamilton makes Country Living magazine’s list for ‘girlfriend getaways

Vallandingham will be honored at 11:45 a.m. today at the Courtyard by Marriott Hamilton during the chamber’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year Luncheon.

Liz Hayden, Small Business Development specialist for the City of Hamilton, said Vallandingham “jumped in feet first” before a lot of other businesses did and was willing to take a chance on downtown Hamilton in a highly visible property.

MORE: Home decor shop coming to downtown Hamilton

“It was this big, transformative change in our community that when people were driving by, they saw things were changing in Hamilton, so Sara was a big part of that,” Hayden said.

Besides positively promoting the city’s downtown as a place to open a business to potential entrepreneurs, she is “highly involved” in Hamilton’s downtown activities, was one of the creators of Alive After 5.

RELATED: Downtown Hamilton to become “alive after five” for monthly event

She remains an active leader in this effort to bring more people to Hamilton’s downtown businesses and was integral in starting Street Feet, a downtown walking club that launched in 2016 and brought people downtown to shop on the weekends, Schotz said.

Vallandingham is “highly creative” when it comes to trying to attract business to her shop, hosting various events, including Salvage Saturday and a terrarium and floral workshop.

“Sara’s not just about herself and her business, she is one of the best collaborators I’ve ever met,” Hayden said. “She’s always working with the other business owners downtown.

Schotz said Vallandingham’s work to continually develop and implement events that attract people to downtown Hamilton is helping to transform people’s perceptions of the community and helping its small business community thrive.

Another nominator, Rhonda Brown, of Hamilton, said Alive After 5 increased visibility and monthly sales for her shop, InsideOut Studio, and lauded Vallandingham for promoting not just her business, but others, as well.

OTHER: InsideOut Studio, YMCA partner to give Hamilton fire hydrants a new look

“She truly believes that High Street is as strong as the weakest link, the working together to promote all of the businesses will benefit everyone,” Brown said. “She is constantly thinking of how to drive traffic onto High Street.”

Vallandingham’s family now owns and lives in the building in which her business is located, which Schotz said shows “a tremendous commitment to and faith in the Hamilton community.

Vallandingham’s also has been involved in every Hamilton Flea event and serves on the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s board.

RELATED: Vendors carefully selected for first Hamilton Flea event

Another nominator, Jason Crank, praised Vallandingham and her husband Dave for working to restore the building with the help of Hamilton’s CORE Fund.

“There were challenges along the way as there would be with any other historic/older building renovation … but again … they moved forward,” Crank said. “In the end, they have a fantastic space that has improved the look and feel of downtown Hamilton more than any other building I can recall in recent memory.”