District 23, the non-profit store that supports the fundraising efforts for The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation, is expanding to Rochester. Its current MacArthur location is already extremely popular with shoppers in Springfield and we’re confident the second store will be just as successful for Michelle and her dedicated team. We got the lowdown for you guys.
Why did you choose Rochester as the location for the second store?
I love Rochester. It's home. My husband, Joel, is from here. His mother Pam Tjelmeland and sister and her family, Sarah Petty live in Rochester. It's where we are raising our daughters, Ellie and Lucy. My sister, Melissa Klemm Jerome and her family are here. After 30 years living in Taylorville, my parents, Max and Sheryl Klemm, just recently relocated to Rochester. And of course, we have a lot of friends in the area. The schools are also wonderful. So it's pretty simple - Rochester has been so good to us and we want to give something back. It really is the perfect fit for the new District 23.
Will the Rochester store stock the same items as the Springfield store – if not what can customers expect?
We will be offering clothing, gifts, and accessories like we do at the MacArthur location, but the items themselves will not be identical. We love variety. So if customers want to get the full District 23 experience and find all of the amazing things we post on Facebook, they'll need to regularly visit both locations.
Where is the Rochester store located?
It is right off Route 29 behind the big silo in Rochester. The development is actually called the Silo Center. You can't miss it. The actual address is 130 South John, Rochester, for anyone who wants to set their GPS.
What is the square footage of the new store?
It is just shy of 1,000 square feet, which is about 100 square feet bigger than our flagship store, but the layout is totally different. I would say my biggest challenge so far is figuring out to make our strip mall location as charming as the bungalow that houses our flagship store on MacArthur.
How will you recreate the ‘shopping experience’ in the new store?
Okay, to really understand the District 23 shopping experience I need to explain that this isn't your typical boutique or even your typical business. All of the proceeds from District 23 go to The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation, the not-for-profit organization I founded in 2005 to provide the gift of hearing for hearing impaired persons. We take gently used cochlear equipment and donate it to people in need. Right before we opened the first District 23 we had about $500 worth of equipment in our inventory bank. In just three short years, that has risen to $2.5 million, thanks in large part to our faithful shoppers, dedicated volunteers, and generous donors. Last year we were able to give $185,000 of equipment away. We are on target to double that number in 2016.
Marcus Lemonis from the TV show The Profit talks about the three keys to running a successful - people, product, and processes. I like to add one more p to that list - passion. All of our volunteers are totally committed to the cause and customers can feel that love right when they step in the door. I've had so many people tell me how good it feels to shop at District 23 because of the friendly interaction with staff and just knowing that not only are they going home with an amazing-looking dress, they are also helping people in need. Personally, I feel inspired every day that I'm there. Our goal for the new store is replicate that same vibe and give people somewhere to shop that's fun, on-trend, and affordable.
Another thing that has me excited about the Rochester space is the big parking lot. When I see big spaces, I get all kinds of ideas of how it could be used to have fun and raise money. At our MacArthur location, our parking lot has hosted many events to benefit the community and we recently added an outdoor space where people can hang out in a metro setting. So I'm definitely looking to do similar things for the people of Rochester. It's an awesome community and we want to do our part to make it even better.
What are the hours of the new store?
Our MacArthur location is open two weekends each month and every Tuesday evening from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and probably the biggest complaint we hear is that we aren't open enough. So in Rochester, we're going to be open six days a week. Our hours will be from 10am to 6pm on Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 10am until around three of four in the afternoon.