The holidays are around the corner and the City of Whiting is ready to spread some cheer. After a long year that put intense pressure on small businesses around the country due to COVID-19, Whiting hopes to make this holiday season a joyful one for the community with events and holiday shopping in the city’s quaint and cozy downtown area.
Whether you are looking for a new game to play with the family or searching for a beautiful piece of décor to display in your home, downtown Whiting has an array of shops for everyone to enjoy. With the downtown’s added warm ambiance and festive décor, it is a welcoming atmosphere to explore after months indoors.
“With the lights and the holiday ambiance, it’s a really warm and exciting place to be,” said Amy Frets, Director of Communications for the City of Whiting. “There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and do downtown, and especially over the past few months. We have really become a family-friendly destination in the Region.”
The draw to Whiting’s charm and ambiance as we enter the holiday season is more important than ever before. With the COVID-19 pandemic still hurting communities around the country, the city has focused on supporting its small business community and looks forward to a successful holiday shopping season for shops and restaurants.
“We, like many other communities, have been working hard to ensure that our small businesses survive,” Frets said. “While they’re all doing a fantastic job and are being so innovative in how they run their business in this climate, we want to do our part to support the businesses that make Whiting the place it is.”
The city’s Shop Small Saturday in November initiative will encourage patrons to shop at the local businesses that make Whiting the exciting and close-knit community it is. With the Christmas season fast approaching, there are plenty of opportunities for the community to rally behind its small businesses.
For Mind Benders puzzles & games co-owners Joel and Amy Bender, they are looking forward to continuing to show the people of Whiting all the fun you can have with puzzles, jigsaws, and games that keep you on your toes.
“We hear of people who say that they bought a game from a department store and brought it home, but when no one really liked it, they assume their family just isn’t a gaming family,” Joel Bender said. “But in reality, it’s not really the people—it’s the game. So, we want people to come in and find these fun, unique games that anyone can enjoy and are great for keeping the mind sharp.”
“It’s an experience,” Bender said of the store.
The Benders opened up their shop in 2016 after the beverage company Joel worked for was bought by Budweiser. The two game enthusiasts had a love of board games and puzzles for years, and with perfect timing and their passion, the two opened their shop on 119thStreet.
Over the past four years, the couple’s business has grown into a beloved city destination thanks to their unique collection of games and puzzles and their unique mission.
“When people come in looking for a new game, we sit down with them and play the game so that when they bring it home, they know exactly what to do and can have fun with it,” Amy Bender said. “And with the pandemic, more and more people were looking for games and puzzles to play since they were indoors so much, so we’ve been here throughout the year making sure the people of Whiting are trying something new.”
Mind Benders puzzles & games was awarded the 2020 Emerging Business of the Year Award by the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center—a worthy recognition of the Benders’ life-long love of games and their customer-focused mission. You can find more information about Mind Benders puzzles and games on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MindBenderspuzzlesandgames/.
Edie Rauner, Owner of Suncatchers Inc., remarked how excited she was to share her designs and art with the community for the holidays.
“I’m excited for people!” Rauner said. “We did have to close our doors for a few months because of COVID-19, and while we did have time to create some beautiful pieces during that time, I’m looking forward to people wanting to shop small.”
Suncatchers Inc. specializes in handmade stained-glass artwork created by Rauner and an eclectic assortment of gifts and beautiful vintage items you can’t find anywhere else. It is an extra special time of the year for Rauner as she prepares to celebrate her business anniversary.
“This is my 33rdyear in business,” Rauner said. “Before I opened the business, I received a surprise bonus from the company I was working for and decided to use it on myself. So, I took a stained glass-making class, something I had always admired, and I fell in love with it.”
Suncatchers Inc. will celebrate the anniversary and the holidays with its annual Christmas Open House starting Friday, November 13th. For more information about Suncatchers, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Suncatchers-Inc-322263151233141/.
Not only is Whiting home to small shops and boutiques, but also exciting experiences like the Region Escape Room. Jessica Schmidt and Rachel Boland, co-owners, invite people to try something new this holiday season and attempt the escape room with the help of family and friends.
“We officially opened last year and, since then, have been a great place for families and friends to solve complex riddles and puzzles together with the same end goal in mind,” Schmidt said. “It’s a really great bonding experience.”
Perfect for small groups looking to do something outside of the box, Region Escape Room offers multiple private rooms for groups to work together and figure out how to make their escape. It is a great socially distanced activity for those looking for something unique to do this holiday season.
“It’s a unique activity to do with family and friends coming to town for the holidays,” Boland said. “We have a solid system in place to keep the rooms clean and sanitized, along with making sure groups are distanced from others. We’re just excited to provide a fun experience for Whiting.”
On Black Friday, Region Escape Room is doing 25% off for games with groups of at least four people. On November 28, which is Shop Small November, there will be a gift certificate sale to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Region Escape Room is currently taking appointments only, so visit their website to book at https://regionescaperoom.com/or call (219) 501-0198 for more information.
While many beloved holiday traditions, like the Holiday Parade, will not take place this year in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, the City of Whiting invites the community to enjoy the Holiday Window Decorating Contest. Participating businesses decorate their storefronts, adding to the downtown’s holiday ambiance. Public voting takes place from December 1 to December 20, and the winners will receive cash prizes.
“It’s a great way to get people engaged with our business community and in their doors during a really important time of the year,” said Mark Harbin of the City of Whiting. “It really adds to the city’s charm and the ambiance that makes this time of the year so exciting for our city.”
To learn more about small businesses in the City of Whiting, visit https://www.whitingindiana.com/.