Encouraging entrepreneurship

Campaign to fill local storefronts focuses on recruiting recent retirees

retirees buildings

ABOVE: Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Benedetti, right, and downtown Bellefontaine businessman Bill Barrett place a sign in the window of a 117 W. Columbus Ave. vacant storefront owned by Mr. Barrett that is among numerous locations the chamber is marketing to recent retirees looking to open a small business. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Julie and Rick Hidinger pose inside the living room of their West Liberty area home they plan to open as a bed and breakfast called
Escape Route 508. The couple are among local entrepreneurs who look to keep busy in their retirement years with a small business. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES)

Since moving to Logan County in 1997, Julie and Rick Hidinger have dreamed of owning and operating a bed and breakfast but, with a house full of children and full-time jobs, they knew it wasn’t in their immediate future.

Now that their children have left home and their retirement becomes more of a reality, they believe they are ready to make the leap into owning a small business.

Dave LaRoche has worked various sales jobs over the years, all the while building his interest in guns and knives into a profitable internet-based sales business. In September 2010, he was able to open Mad River Knife and Supply in downtown Bellefontaine.

While their business plans are worlds apart, the Hidingers and Mr. LaRoche share the same passion for their businesses.

And Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Benedetti hopes local business leaders can encourage other potential business owners to step up their passions from hobby to small business.

“We really want to promote and grow the entrepreneurial spirit,” Mr. Benedetti said. “With Honda retiring some 800 associates who are still young and well-funded, hopefully some will want to turn their hobbies and passions into a business.”

As part of the effort, the chamber has been hanging window signs in empty storefronts directing recent retirees to pursue their dreams.

“A lot of people think an out-of-town restaurant or business will fill these but our best bet for filling the stores is with homegrown businesses. Bellefontaine and Logan County have been really blessed with a lot of companies that grew out of garages,” Mr. Benedetti said citing names like Mobile Instruments, NetGain Information Systems, Wammes Guns and Acrux Security that began as small business ventures and evolved over years into highly successful local companies.


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