What does community mean to you? Is it simply a place to live or a defined location? Is it a group of friends who does life together ("it takes a village")? Is it an organization such as PTO or Rotary who work together toward specific goals? Or is it some combination of any of these depending on what season of life you happen to be in?
As a someone who moved a lot as a kid, community was not something we had. We only lived on 1 military base, rarely did we live by family, and as the "new" family it was hard to build community in the small time frame we had. My husband and I have lived in Western PA for 20 years now (which is ridiculous and so much longer than I've lived anywhere else) and it has been an interesting journey in finding community through the unique seasons of our journey.
Opening a store has developed a community in ways I did not anticipate. We were overwhelmed with support when we opened the first location from friends who came to check it out and check on me. We grew a community from not necessarily a geographical area but a group of people who cared about local products and supporting local people. When Penn Pantry moved to it's new location, the first few months were about that community coming to check it out which was encouraging and surprising and so much fun.
Now we're looking to grow and figure out our place in the world. What are we in business for? Simply to make money, to have an interesting experience for a few years, or is it more? Can it be more? Should it be more?
The word community keeps coming up over and over again. Our first goal of supporting local people doing local things is still a primary focus. Giving local farmers and jelly makers and crafters a place to offer their unique products to an audience is important. But can we reach beyond that? Can we continue building our reach and give our place a sense of community? Is this a place where you can try yoga, learn a new craft, decorate cupcakes or a whole host of things? Absolutely! But not simply for the sake of giving people something else to do. We can offer experiences and open our doors for the sake of building community. Building community with friends (remember the village), connecting members of our geographical location, as well as people with similar passions.
Building community is important. I've seen how life changing it is. I know how special it is. And it's what we're going to intentionally build into the Penn Pantry experience. It's going to be our line in the sand to determine whether we pursue specific events and experiences. And it will be our goal to reach out and be part of this community.