Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 7 newspaper on Page A1.
McARTHUR — Some days, Nicki Martin just needs to go on an adventure.
Years ago she started a game, which is now a tradition with her children and other relatives, called “Left-Right.”
Here are the rules: you drive out to a gas station and load up on snacks and drinks for the day (after all, you can’t be certain of when you’ll return home). Next, you drive out to your pre-determined location and begin interchanging left turns and right turns. You must turn left on your designated left turn, and you must turn right when it comes time to turn right.
“It was a lot more dramatic when we didn’t have cell phones,” Martin said. “We’d sometimes be gone for hours.”
Martin loves adventure, whether it be to appease her wanderlust or to introduce something exciting and new to her county. She and her husband, Jeff, have started and built upon several businesses since her move to McArthur around 15 years ago.
Martin’s experience with retail began when she was a teenager in Washington Court House working in local clothing stores at the outlet mall. Once she moved to Montana after high school, she bulked up her retail management experience with a few different clothing and craft business chains.
The mother of three often tells people that she has her children, then she has her other three “babies”: The Bronzer, Weeping Willow and Lil’ Vikes Child Care.
“Each business that we’ve done, we start them from the ground up,” she said. “We dress them, we name them, we are able to put our heart and soul in. It’s so personal.”
For example, Weeping Willow, her McArthur clothing boutique, is completely what she envisioned. The boutique’s design pays tribute to life in McArthur, all with Martin’s personal tastes shining through, and the mural painted toward the boutique’s entrance was created by local artist Zac Boring.
“I wanted a Weeping Willow tree, but something colorful,” she said. The changing rooms were also just as she wanted, complete with curtains for privacy.
After her youngest child started kindergarten, Martin wanted to add a new role to her routine, but one that could also serve as her own form of “therapy.” She now teaches ReFit, an exercise program, at a building on her property in McArthur.
“As busy as we are, it’s my thing where I can let go, ease up,” she said. “There’s no judgment, it’s kind of a place where for an hour you can go somewhere and just breathe.”
The entrepreneur hopes to see her community blossom into a tourist destination where small businesses are encouraged to take root.
“There’s definitely more things we’d like to do, but we’re waiting for the right time and right opportunity. And the community is so supportive of what we do.” She noted people are always bringing ideas for new businesses and services to her and to Jeff.
Of course, it’s no secret the Martins are a business-savvy duo. The Vinton County Chamber of Commerce selected Nicki and Jeff Martin as the 2018 Persons of the Year for operating their three local businesses.
“When I’m travelling, I love to stop into the mom and pop shops of the area,” she said. “There’s always something unique you can find to bring back with you.”
Martin experiences this with her own boutique. She once had a truck driver from Quebec stop into Weeping Willow on his way through town because his wife pointed out a dress she liked on display in the shop window. Others simply travel from larger nearby cities to beat the crowds.
She also noted that McArthur is an ideal location for a tourist destination, being near so many state forests and the Hocking Hills area. When she travels, Martin often takes note of what other towns have to offer. Many of those services or features, she believes, could be thrive in towns like McArthur.
“I try to think outside of the box,” she said. “Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean we can’t have big-city amenities and things to do here. And it’s important to keep money here within our county.”
Not that McArthur isn’t growing. Martin said she’s witnessed a lot of growth in the several years she has lived in Vinton County.
“I want people to fight past the fear of opening businesses, but I know it’s hard. We have our eggs in a lot of baskets, and we never know if it’ll work. But you won’t find out until you do it.”
Martin imagines and creates and explores, but she attributes a lot of her entrepreneurial efforts to her partner in life and business.
“I tell Jeff this: ‘I don’t know if I’d be doing what I’m doing if God didn’t put you in my life,’” she said. “He’s the one to pull the reins, but he’s also the one to say, ‘Ok, if it fails, it fails.’ He kind of opens the door for me to fail and have it be OK, but he also opens the door for me to try it.”