By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Established in January 1973 by Ira and Zelma Mikesell, the Brethren Retirement Community Gift Shop happily announces its 50th anniversary. A celebration on Monday, Jan. 30 will offer complimentary punch and cookies, grab bags, and 50 percent off ALL items from 1 to 3 p.m. Kim Brewer, manager, touts the gift shop as one of the “best kept secrets in Darke County” and invites the community to share in this special occasion.
Brewer has worked at Brethren Retirement Community (BRC) for 27 years and has seen the gift shop through a number of improvements, such as implementing a computer system and the 2006 Main Street remodel and expansion.
“There’s been a lot of changes since I got here. When I started, we were doing money out of a box, you know, counting by hand. We’ve really updated in the last 50 years,” Brewer recalled.
Today, the shop is an inviting space offering residents, visitors, and staff a variety of knickknacks, purses, jewelry, and more.
Brewer said, “The main, number one thing to have is snacks. You always want to have chips and candy bars. We have residents, staff, and visitors who all want their snacks!” Strawberry-peach smoothies and freshly-baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are also favorites offered at the gift shop. Brewer laughed, “You get to really know the residents and what they snack on too! I know everybody’s weakness!”
“We try to keep a good assortment of things that aren’t too pricey. The residents all have shelves outside their rooms, and they like to decorate those up. Our best-selling time is Christmastime because they are all coming in to buy gifts for family and friends,” stated Brewer.
Not only can customers shop and enjoy a chat with staff, but they may also relax in the seating area, which overlooks the community pond and fountain, complete with a pair of stunning swans.
In addition to celebrating 50 years, BRC Gift Shop is also marking a change in management. Brewer plans to retire during the upcoming anniversary week and will be handing the leadership reins to Morrigane Dowler, a fellow BRC staff member.
“I was in dietary for four years, and then I switched over to coordinating home health,” said Dowler. The manager-in-training said she is excited for the additional gift shop position that will get her back to having regular interactions with the residents.
“Being up in my [home health coordinator] office most of the time, I don’t get to be around the residents as much as I used to. It will be nice to catch up and talk to them daily,” said Dowler.
Dowler joins a short list of people who have loved and managed the shop in the post-Mikesell era, including Edie Prether (1980), Janet Ashworth (1990), and, of course, Kim Brewer (1996).
Brewer explained all have held true to the Mikesells’ original mission of the gift shop. A plaque dedicated to the founders can be seen on the wall, which reads, “In memory, we strive to continue to hold true their objective to be of service to the residents, staff, and visitors of the Brethren’s Home.”
Regarding her retirement, Brewer said, “I’m gonna miss my gift shop ‘cause it’s always been my baby. I think I was meant to do this—helping the residents, talking with them when they come in.” As Brewer transitions out of her position, she plans to continue spending a couple of days at BRC each week.
Volunteers have also played a crucial role over the years, and the gift shop still welcomes their assistance. At this time, there is a need in the mid- to late-mornings, and anyone interested in applying may reach out to Melinda Liette at 937-547-7682. “We’re on the uptick [post-pandemic], and we need to get more volunteers in here,” said Brewer, whose own mother acted as a volunteer for 20 years.
Although the gift shop is currently open only 1 to 4 p.m., customers may still help themselves to what they need 24 hours a day. The BRC staff is proud they are able to successfully offer this arrangement.
Brewer explained, “We run an honor system at night. A section of the gift shop remains open, so they can get what they want, write down what they get, and put their money in the box. You don’t see that at too many places!”
Dowler agreed, adding, “Brethren Retirement Community is a good name because it’s not just a home, it really is a community. Everyone knows, helps, and trusts each other.”
“I have big shoes to fill,” Dowler concluded.
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Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.