SHELTON, Conn. — The organizers of Celebrate Shelton had a simple goal in mind when they dreamed up the organization.
“We wanted to create a community of small businesses together,” said Nicole Heriot Mikula, owner of the hula hoop shop Bring the Hoopla. “We love Shelton, and we think there’s real potential for the downtown area.”
It turns out she and her fellow organizers, Michael Skrtic and Jimmy Tickey, are not alone in that feeling. It seems everything they have created — from the Handmade Market that opens for the year Saturday to the Downtown Sounds summer concert series to a biannual small business guide — has been embraced by the town and, increasingly, the region.
“It’s been extremely successful,” said Tickey, Mikula’s brother and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s campaign manager.
The market runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of most months at the Conti Building downtown. Each features 23 to 40 artisans chosen from a handpicked rotating list of 185 participants, Mikula said.
“We’re looking for established small businesses that are producing at a really high level of quality,” she said.
The markets, which draw 250 to 400 shoppers on any given weekend, feature handmade soaps, jewelry, bread, olive oil and more. The group has added live music and children’s activities and they hope to offer demonstrations this year.
“It gives people a place to show off what they do,” said Skrtic, who creates and restores glass at Glass Source downtown.
In the summer, Celebrate Shelton offers three monthly concerts at the downtown riverwalk, Tickey said. While Celebrate Shelton is a volunteer group, Tickey used his fundraising acumen to secure Prudential as the series’ title sponsor last year.
In the winter, Celebrate Shelton partners with the city for a festive downtown tree-lighting.
And twice a year, the group puts out a small business guide, in which local businesses — whether they operate out of a storefront or online — can highlight their uniqueness and quality.
Celebrate Shelton is not a nonprofit, but the organizers are all volunteers who are passionate about boosting their community.
“Shelton is a great place to grow up, have a family and have a business,” said Tickey, who, like Skrtic and Mikula, is a city native. “It’s well connected and wisely developed, but it really has a rural feel, too.”
For more information, visit Celebrate Shelton on Facebook.
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