“In the Right Place”
story and photo by Jeff Tryon
Joanne Rozzi ended up as a Nashville shopkeeper more or less by accident. But her 23 years in Brown County has taught her a lot; about the business of hosting “the visitors” and about what makes a special community special.
Ms. Rozzi came to Brown County in 1980 when her husband took a position with the school system. She had worked as an optometry technician for 18 years. When her husband died of cancer, she took a year off and then opened a new chapter in her life by getting a job at PegAnn’s, a women’s boutique started by Peggy Harden.
She liked it so much that in 1992, she bought the store.
“She wanted to sell and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Ms. Rozzi said.
The 28-year-old shop now located in Coachlight Square at 225 South Van Buren Street has clothing items and accessories, baby items and gifts. The store specializes in embellished clothing.
Ms. Rozzi said the shop’s success is largely due to the display and the overall look of the shop.
“Our return clientele is strong, not just locally, but from the surrounding states,” she said. “That helps a whole lot. People come back to Nashville probably every year. That’s why change is important.”
In 1993 she widened her merchant’s net to the male half of the market with a shop called “Male Instinct.”
“It’s a different spin on a Men’s store,” she said. “I thouroughly enjoy that shop. It’s a little different. We carry a little bit of Columbia Sportswear, Cotton Traders, and we mix golf, fishing and a lot of unique gift items. It draws a combination of men and women. They both seem to really enjoy the store.”
Male Instinct is located at 75 South Van Buren Street, across from the Brown County Playhouse and next to Rhonda Kay’s.
Ms. Rozzi is active in trying to build the local tourism industry. She sits on the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau board of directors. She is a past president of the Brown County Chamber of Commerce. Every holiday season she and some other shopowners rally the retail community support for the Christmas in Brown County festivities—Frosty and the Train; the carriage with Santa; the petting zoo, etc.
“I think it’s important to be involved in the community,” she said. “If you sit in your shop and think you can open the door and business will just happen, that’s misleading.”
Ms. Rozzi has a distinct vision for Brown County and some concrete ideas about how to improve in the future.
“I think our heritage is what Brown County and Nashville is all about,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of, starting with an Art Colony that continues to today. There’s a resurgence to make that a strong part of the community. I think that’s important and I think retailers are very open to accepting that vision.”
She believes the vision will drive the market. “It will bring a lot of people from all over the United States into Brown County,” Ms. Rozzi said. “The competition for the dollar is very difficult at this time, with outlet malls and riverboat gambling. Also, other towns are competing to get tourism. “I think it’s important that you have a vision and that you stick with that, that you use the marketing dollars that are available in the correct way.”
She said one of the greatest assets Brown County has is the people who live here and work in the shops and other visitor-related businesses.
“I have excellent help that are very friendly with the visitors and very helpful in directing them to other businesses if I don’t have what they need,” Ms. Rozzi said. “That makes my return clientele excellent.”
And her wish list for Nashville’s future?
“The Mainstreet program that has been used in other cities would be an important step,” she said. “It is important that the overall look of the town be good; flowers, streetlights, attractive trash cans. Signage is important, and we lack in that.” she said.
It’s difficult to get the word out. Also, because it’s a small community, the competition for fundraising from all organizations is real tough. Real tough.”
In the end, the woman who came to Brown County more or less by accident has become rooted into the community.
“I absolutely love living down here,” she said. “I chose to stay down here, and the community has been very good to me and my family in some of the things we’ve been through. There’s a lot to be said for small, caring communities.”