On the right path: Freeport business is Maine Merchant of the Year

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FREEPORT — Jan Parker and Heather DeSimone, mother-and-daughter co-owners of the Beadin’ Path, have been named the 2010 Maine Merchant of the Year.

The 15 Main St. store, which specializes in beads and bead jewelry-making supplies, was chosen from about 10 businesses for its commitment to Maine as a local, women-owned business. The owners have shown innovation by using social media to expand their business and have found the time and ability to give back to their community, according to the Maine Merchants Association.

According to Curtis Picard, executive director of the association, award recipients must have shown continued growth in employees or sales, commitment of company resources to community projects, and a positive work environment for all employees.

Picard said the Beadin’ Path exceeded all of these requirements.

“This business is such a great model for others,” he said. “They are able to do so much with their online presence, their Twitter and Facebook accounts, and are able to use it to their advantage.”

“Retailing is competition and it has been a rough couple of years for all businesses,” he said. “But these two have reached out and changed to reach their customers in a new way.”

Parker said she worked for 20 years as a bookkeeper at an insurance company before she was ready to own her own business. She said her strengths include running the financial end of the store, while her daughter DeSimone excels in creativity and marketing.

“We have a good working relationship and different interests,” Parker said.

Parker and DeSimone have worked diligently over the past 17 years to change with the times, adapt to the market and keep their customers happy, but they credit their success and the award to their staff. 

“We have a terrifically creative staff,” Parker said.

Many of the people employed at the Beadin’ Path have worked with Parker and DeSimone for more than 10 years. Some are family members and others have become as close as family, Parker said.

Ashley Bunting has worked for the company for eight years and designs products. Carisa Cobb is the website products manager and has been an employee for 12 years.

Halie Lyons, the website order manager, has worked for the store for two years and said everyone at the Beadin’ Path is part of the extended family.

“It is a motherly group of individuals,” she said. “Everyone, even the new faces, feel this way. It is hard not to.”

In addition to providing a creative outlet for jewelry makers and artists, DeSimone and Parker donate their time and resources to local organizations. They have given to the Ronald McDonald House, Camp Sunshine, Freeport Community Services, Wolfe’s Neck Farm and Safe Passage, to name a few.

The owners support local artists and bead makers and carry beads made by Sam Lawrence of Yarmouth, Stephanie Sersich of Topsham and Cindy Skidgel of Yarmouth.

“We love our jobs and the people we work with,” Parker said. “This award so cool and we are honored and very excited.”

DeSimone said without the support of their customers, they would not have won the award.

As a way to reach out to customers to keep them aware of upcoming workshops and new inventory, DeSimone has launched a social media campaign. Using Twitter and Facebook she has been able to reach out to the community and make connections with customers near and far.

“Social media has worked very well for us,” DeSimone said. “To reach people with quick bursts of information is a great way to communicate with others.”

She said they she and her mother feel fortunate to be able to work in a field they love.

“Even when the times are tough, we love what we do,” she said.

The Merchant of the Year award will be presented at the association’s 77th annual meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]

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Heather DeSimone, left, and her mother Jan Parker, are co-owners of the Beadin’ Path in Freeport, the 2010 Maine Merchants Association Merchant of the Year.