Tempe’s Here on the Corner Nominated for National Charity Award
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 16:02
Buyer's remorse is a thing of the past when shopping at Here on the Corner. After owning the boutique for eight months, owner and ASU alumna Julie Kent was selected as a finalist in a nationwide search for retailers that give back.
Kent's drive to give back to her community is two-fold. After purchasing the jewelry and apparel store on College Avenue and University Drive, she committed herself to featuring products for a cause, stocking the boutique's shelves with more than ten products connected to a charitable or social effort including ones made by local designers.
Products like STOPstart bags are made by victims of human trafficking in Cambodia, providing them with employment and hope and Tempe shoppers with trendy bags and clean consciences. "You have to be creative about it. Especially in these times it's easier for people to donate if they get something in return," said Kent, who trains her staff to direct shoppers toward these items.
But her dedication to the community is a personal one, too. Before buying the store, Kent was a stay-at-home mom for eight years who loved volunteering with her kids. "That was really hard for me to give up," she said. "And then this opportunity came about and I thought I could combine them."
The annual "Next Big Give" contest, sponsored by the wholesale marketplace Dallas Market Center, chose ten finalists that demonstrate exceptional community generosity through volunteering, donating goods or fundraising. Here On The Corner was recognized for sponsoring an annual run benefiting Maggie's Place, a local nonprofit that provides housing for homeless pregnant women.
Winners will be announced on February 14 and will be rewarded with free publicity and a complimentary trip to Texas to attend a wholesale event.
Kentalso hosts tailgating events at ASU and donates goods and money to benefit an array of organizations including Tumbleweed, Tempe Leadership, Tempe High Key Club, Fashionistas at ASU and Broadmor Elementary School.
"When you're a business, you have much more opportunity to put the word out there," she said. "It gives you another level of exposure for the organizations."
Kenttakes full advantage of that exposure to make Here On The Corner not just a boutique, but also a space for the creative minds of Tempe to meet and promote themselves and their hobbies.
Every third Thursday marks the store's Local Designer Night, when shoppers can meet the brains behind the t-shirt designs. The event is complete with live music, grub and, of course, some retail therapy. Kent offers promotions to shoppers who buy locally-designed apparel. More than 10 local fashion designers sell hair accessories fashioned out of recycled ASU shirts, illustrated clothing and cards and more.
Events like this attract local-minded shoppers like TaiLeah Madill, who has been shopping at the boutique for more than three months and attends Local Designer Nights. "It's a great way to be involved in the community along with all the other stuff she does," said Madill, who said she shops soundly knowing her bucks will be staying in the community.
Kentempowers her staff to come up with more events like these to support hobbies they are passionate about. And that is just what employee Michelle Wiel did. Monday, January 16 marked the kick-off for the store's Fashion and Spoken Word event. "Spoken Word is an opportunity for people from all races and culture to come and speak about certain experiences and certain feelings," said Wiel, who has been performing this brand of poetry for more than five years.
"I most definitely think Julie is deserving to be a finalist, I think she deserves to have the award," Wiel said.
For Wiel, working at Here on the Corner is more meaningful than just putting in hours at a boutique. "Julie is a big community person, so the first thing she is always thinking is how is this going to affect the community and how is this person going to benefit from me," Wiel said.