Several officials participated in an event to inaugurate a new business in the center.
CHQ Plus is a collaborative community effort that aims to showcase local artisans selling goods in downtown Jamestown. The new business is located at 221 Cherry St.
Terri Johnson, director of employment and community services at The Resource Center, said the goal of CHQ Plus is “double.” First, Johnson said that CHQ Plus will offer a space that small businesses can use to sell their products without having to rent an entire store or hire staff.
“It can be an opportunity for small businesses to test new products or test their products in a retail store when they may have only been selling online.” she said.
Additionally, Johnson believes the showcase will provide opportunities for artisans and small businesses across the county to reach a broader customer base.
The second goal of CHQ Plus is to create a business that can be used as a training program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“This allows us to teach transferable job skills that people can bring to a work setting,” Johnson said. “The goal is to train people with disabilities and then find them a job in the community to use the skills they have learned.”
Eventually, CHQ Plus also plans to highlight products made by people with disabilities.
Johnson said the idea for CHQ Plus originated with a grant funding opportunity with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. Funding from the Chamber grant was to consider the “feasibility” of a store that could be used to introduce small local businesses.
Since The Resource Center has a history of operating successful businesses in the area, the Chamber coordinated with The Resource Center to launch the business.
Once The Resource Center created a business plan and initial budget for the project, Johnson said the two organizations worked on additional grant applications to help launch the business.
Along with The Resource Center, the Chamber created an advisory committee for CHQ Plus and recruited local providers.
Johnson said the Gebbie Foundation also played a crucial role in the formation of CHQ Plus.
“The Gebbie Foundation has been an incredible partner in every phase of this project and helped us along the way.” she said. “They have been great champions and have really loved the connection to our Mission at The Resource Center.”
The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation provided financial support for some of the renovation work needed in the Wellman Building, and the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation helped cover some of the initial costs of CHQ Plus.
“Without these local partners, this vision would never have come to fruition,” Johnson said. “We are so grateful that everyone believed in this project and came together to bring it to life.”
As CHQ Plus opens its doors, local residents will have the opportunity to support multiple providers by shopping in one location. The store currently offers products from 21 local vendors. Johnson said each vendor is from or near Chautauqua County.
Of the 21 vendors, four are connected to The Resource Center’s mission as disability-owned or operated businesses. Johnson explained that people who shop at CHQ plus will not only be able to support local businesses, but they will also support people with disabilities.
“Many people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to get a job, and we want to make sure they have the skills they need to succeed by developing a workforce ready for other businesses.” she said.
Johnson said people can expect energy, vitality and variety when they visit CHQ Plus. The space in the Wellman building has been renovated to accommodate the variety of products from different vendors, creating a positive shopping experience for visitors.
“The group of people who will be trained will learn how to greet customers and are excited to welcome CHQ Plus to the community.” Johnson said. “They will learn a lot of different skills throughout the store.”
To date, Johnson said the response from the community has been very positive. Neighboring businesses have supported the mission of CHQ Plus, serving as a reminder to Johnson that the downtown community has a strong desire to work together for the success of the downtown region. In addition, Johnson said that local residents expressed enthusiasm for the store’s variety of products and the quality interactions available with the staff.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, CHQ Plus expects to expand and add more providers in the coming months. Johnson said the company would like to offer local CHQ Plus baskets in 2023 that could be shipped to people outside of the Jamestown area to share Jamestown products with a broader audience.
Regardless of future expansion plans, Johnson stressed the importance of CHQ Plus remaining committed to its dual mission.
“We want to be able to support and improve small businesses while we focus on our mission at The Resource Center to help people with disabilities achieve maximum independence and contribute to their community.” she said.
Those interested in becoming a CHQ Plus provider are encouraged to visit the online application at resourcecenter.org/support/chq-plus-store.