If you haven’t already met me, I’m Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit & Whimzy at 152 Front Street.
It’s a strange journey from being an Administrative Coordinator at Marietta College to being a retail shop owner in downtown Marietta. In fact, my journey was more like a leap off a cliff, with the same fear, uncertainty and exhilaration. As scary as the leap was for me, I am happy I jumped and landed on Front Street, opening the doors to Wit & Whimzy in September 2016.
When I moved to the MOV in 2000, I wasn’t familiar with downtown Marietta. Even during my first years at Marietta College, I was not a regular visitor to the shops and small businesses lining the few blocks of Front Street and beyond. It took me a while to realize that these shops provide products that are not only unique, but they are quality made and affordable. Not to mention that downtown is an easy walk or drive from most of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
In 2009, I opened an Etsy shop to satisfy my creativity and make some extra money. I spent the following years learning just how many talented artisans there are in the world. I was selling vintage items, but drooling over the amazing art, jewelry, and hand crafted items that were being sold from all corners of the world. In 2014 I created an outdoor event, Marietta Marketplace, in an effort to showcase some of those artists and give people another reason to visit Marietta
The “pop-up” Marketplaces were well received, and visitors seemed to really appreciate the time and skill that go into creating hand crafted items. In 2016 I was still working at the College, juggling my Etsy shop and some free-lance writing, and coordinating the Marketplace events. I decided to leave my full time job and buy myself another one—a retail space that would feature products like those I had been promoting. I envisioned a space that was a bit urban, a bit “home town”, with items that would (hopefully) have someone smiling at the humor or ooh-ing in delight. In other words, Wit & Whimzy.
My mission was to source all my products from artisans and USA small businesses. I strive to adhere to that mission, and it’s both challenging and fun to discover new items that are made locally or across the country. There are a few exceptions; several vendors have to source their blank products from outside the U.S., but they do all their design and printwork themselves.
During the last few years, my work with the Getaway Guide, Marietta Main Street, Clutch MOV and Marietta Marketplace have provided glimpses into the dedication and perseverance our downtown merchants and business people apply to their jobs. But knowing in advance does not fully prepare one for the long hours, the ups and downs of an uncertain economy, even the effect of bad weather on a day’s sales.
Being a sole proprietor means I’m the same person unlocking the door in the morning, greeting customers all day, processing inventory, setting up displays, running transactions, and locking up at night. And somewhere in that schedule there are trips to the post office and bank, emails and social media posts to write, supplies to buy…oh, and keep a house and “home life” at the same time! My shop is still on my mind when my head hits the pillow, and the first thing on my mind when the alarm goes off.
That said, there is nothing that compares to the feeling of unlocking your own shop, stepping outside and saying hello to a passerby or fellow shopkeeper. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction of hearing a compliment or kind word about the merchandise or the shop. Our shops and businesses are the public extension of ourselves---this is our heart and passion you see when you cross the threshold. The downtown merchants are a close-knit group that support each other and strive to make Marietta the best it can be. They work hard to create special events, cross- promote, and plan ways to attract more people to this special little city. I was nervous about being a “newbie”, inexperienced retailer among so many experienced merchants. But I have received advice, offers of display pieces, even snow and leaves blown off my sidewalk by a neighbor. We all want success for each of us, and success for Marietta in the process.
When you shop at Wit & Whimzy, you are helping an artist or small business person achieve their dream of turning their passion into income. Whether it’s a young mother working at her dining table at night, or a small group of friends turning their hobby into a career—your support keeps them going. And when you shop small and shop local, you are helping each business owner achieve their own dream of independence and contributing to a thriving downtown. Oh, and you’re finding a really cool treasure to give or take home for yourself!
This article was authored by Laura Pytlik, Owner of Wit & Whimzy located on Front Street in historic downtown Marietta.