Shop owner sparks Lovin' Downtown Loudon

Maribeth Jewell visits Nurtured by Nature Wellness Studio after shopping in other stores Saturday during Lovin’ Downtown Loudon.

In an effort to boost customer foot traffic, business owners welcomed the inaugural Lovin’ Downtown Loudon.

The event was led by Sandy Stalnaker, Nurtured by Nature Wellness Studio co-owner, who moved to the area with husband, Mark Smith, six years ago.

The pair opened the shop a little more than a year ago, but Stalkner found herself at home more during the pandemic.

“Business downtown had fallen off to near nothing and I was searching for a way to keep my own business in front of the public for the duration,” Stalnaker said in an email correspondence. “… I set up What’s Up Downtown Loudon (a Facebook group) to promote all things specific to the historic downtown area, including my own. I followed all the downtown businesses, churches, civic groups, etc., and started sharing their FB posts to my group.”

Stalnaker’s group grew to 1,100 members.

Lovin’ Downtown Loudon, which took place Thursday-Saturday, was the evolution of a challenge she posted in the group calling for members to “show their love” to downtown merchants. Stalnaker said she had a fast response from other business owners offering to contribute.

She hopes Lovin’ will be an annual effort.

Christal Tarpley, massage therapist at The Massage Studio, said COVID has negatively impacted most businesses, so the positive message is important.

“There are many reasons,” Tarpley said. “Of course, COVID is probably one of them, and to bring life back into our downtown because … we love every person and as a community we come together. This is probably life or death for some of these (stores) — especially the retail shops. That’s probably the biggest reason.”

Tarpley said Stalnaker repeatedly helps other small businesses make money and find clients.

Keisha Harold, One Fine Day Salon and Spa co-owner, said Lovin’ offered a unique way for shop owners to get to know one another.

“I think it really helps all of us know who our neighbors are more and more,” Harold said. “It brings us all together and helps support our small towns. We’re all independent, wanting to grow our business, entrepreneurs. It’s just huge to be able to do something like this.

“We needed (Stalnaker),” she added. “I’m telling you, it’s amazing going in each everybody’s little store and meeting your neighbor. We are all downtown but just getting in and shopping local — it’s amazing for me. I’ve been here my whole life and I never would’ve thought I would be where I am today. I am grateful for that.”