The local store that made our Christmas


Shop local.
I experienced the importance of this a few weeks ago. Dunham’s Department Store in Wellsboro is a family-owned  store founded in 1905.
They’re also one of my wife’s clients. She came home from a meeting with owners John and Nancy Dunham after Thanksgiving and over supper talked about the meeting.

“After the meeting, when I was looking around, I saw the most beautiful coat,” she said.  I was half listening but remembered something about “soft” and  “rust color.”
It was so beautiful, she said, and there was only one in her size. She was sure it would be gone in a few days.
A couple weeks later, I did a book signing at From My Shelf Books, another locally owned, indie business. I walked up to Dunham’s, hoping they might still have the coat and could identify it with my meager two clues.
I ran into John and Nancy in the snack shop, sat down and had a bowl of soup and coffee.
“Linda saw a coat,” I said. I don’t know anything about it except it’s soft and rust colored.”
Nancy thought it over. “Well, I think I saw her looking at a coat in the display window.” She thought some more. “Based on what she’s bought in the past — like that white jacket a couple years ago. . . I think. . . let me go look.”
She returned with a coat. I had no idea if it was it. “I think it is,” Nancy said. John nodded in agreement. “That looks like her.”
For the first time in my life I said, ‘I’ll take it” without even asking the price.
“Do you want it wrapped?” Yes.
I was pretty nervous Christmas morning. If it wasn’t the right one my wife would be very disappointed. If it was the right one, it would make her whole Christmas.
It was the right one.
Imagine this.  Go to Bon Ton or Sears, or Macy’s . Can you sit down with the owners and have a coffee? Can you say your wife saw a coat two weeks before, give a couple vague clues and have them bring it out and hand it to you gift wrapped?
Not a chance.
The Dunhams know  all their regular clientele so well that on buying trips they pick out clothes based on their customers’ tastes!
Yes, I also like the idea that I’m supporting local business and keeping money circulating in the community, contributing to it health.
But I’m also grateful to John and Nancy for making my wife’s Christmas special.  (It’s nearly impossible for a man to buy a woman clothes she actually likes.)
Dunham’s has been around for 112 years, succeeding on the premise that knowing and caring about your customers is the best kind of marketing.

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9 responses to “The local store that made our Christmas

  1. We LOVE Dunham’s! Where else can you get that variety in items for sale combined with wonderful sales staff. They actually listen to you and help e.you find what you want. I also love the 1905 Cafe and getting my Starbuck’s fix there.

  2. We have a store in Lock Haven ,Sand Piper Designs, whose owner is just like that. Our daughter, Rita ,collects “bears dressed as bees” (more plentiful than one might think), and Carol has made many a call to me telling me that she has just gotten in “the cutest little bear dressed like a bee”, and would I like her to keep it for me. !! I always say, “Is the Pope Catholic???? ” !!! That’s wonderful small town stuff !!!
    Nice blog, Dennis, and aren’t you just the rmost wonderful husband !!! Happy New Year!!

  3. How fantastic.. this is a real american story.. a wonderful story..c

  4. Thanks for your comments, ladies. Yes, Dunham’s is great and more and more we’re all seeing that supporting our local businesses is the only way to help our communities.

    • Great story and how true it is to shop where you are known. This is wonderful. I do most of my grocery shopping at Shepherd’s in Pine City. There meat is quality and the service is wonderful. I can ask for any cut, call on the phone and tell them what I want and it is always ready and waiting when I stop. Keeping our local businesses prospering is an important aspect of working and living in any community. Keep the stories coming. Nanc

  5. Rebecca J. Seamans

    Just read this story, Dennis and I was tearing up. It is a great “feel good” story. Thanks for sharing this heart waming tale.

    ~Rebecca J.
    Class of 2001, PR/JN and SID work study ‘kid’ 🙂

  6. Took my daughter to Dunham’s and other stores in Wellsboro the weekend of her audition at Mansfield. We bought the majority of our Christmas gifts there. I also told her to keep Dunham’s in mind if she needs anything while attending MU (Class of 2016!). Wonderful staff and terrific selection. There’s much to be said for old fashioned service!

  7. I agree…I see John and Nancy everyday that I work at the Cafe inside Dunham’s. They are there day in and day out. They really “care” about the quality of their business. You will not find two more down to earth people anywhere. They are VERY involved in the community and love giving back. I enjoy our conversations very much and they have raised two wonderful daughters whom I consider great friends. There just aren’t enough words to say how much i respect them. What a wonderful article Dennis!
    Jen Stephens
    Barista @ Cafe 1905

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