Take a road trip across America, and you’ll find small towns in every nook and cranny of the country. Some have streets lined with old, deserted buildings that barely resemble the thriving businesses they once were.

Many small towns are mere shadows of the past, our rich history hanging by a thread. Main Streets are dotted with dilapidated buildings with shattered windows. Historic buildings line streets where dreams were abandoned long ago, but not forgotten.

As we cast our eyes upon the old brick, collapsed roofs, and peeling paint, our minds wander to the past. We’re intrigued by the hopes and dreams these old buildings once represented. We imagine America’s old towns as they were many years ago: busy, thriving, filled with laughter, hope and promise.

But alas, our history is not entirely lost to the superstores that grace virtually every major street corner. In some parts of the country, small towns are coming back to life; ancient relics are being revitalized by small business owners, entrepreneurs with a “dream” to awaken the nostalgia and splendor of the past.

Small business owners are hard at work renovating old buildings, restoring them to their original beauty, all the while rebuilding our communities in the process, creating jobs, revenue and revitalizing local economies…and the American Dream.

Thriving Small Towns Bring a Sense of ‘Community’

No matter how big the superstores get, no corporate giant can change the fact that we’re social animals who function better when we’re a part of a social system that’s larger than ourselves. When our small towns are thriving, we feel a sense of “community,” like we’re a part of the social glue that binds us all together.

It’s only natural to yearn to be a part of something extraordinary, to feel like our contributions are improving our community, and that is how Mark and Tracey Olenick felt about a town in Northwest Pennsylvania, whose economy was in a slump when they arrived on the scene.

The Olenicks chose Venango, PA for their business because they saw the potential to reinvigorate the community of about 300 residents, and boy, how they’ve been delivering!

What inspired you to open Venango General Store?

Hi, my name is Mark. My wife and I own and operate the Venango General Store. Inception for the store really came out of growth needs associated with an artisan pickle company that we were running a few years ago.

We decided that it was time to grow. That I would leave my full-time job and we would take the pickle business full-time. When we started looking for commercial property, we came across this location up in Northwest PA, the town was in decline, the building needed renovation.

However, there was a lot of good traffic as it was located on a main thoroughfare as well as other good anchor businesses around. There’s multiple country clubs with restaurants, there’s always pottery, as well as several well-known universities in the area.

So, that along with the fact that there was not a general grocery store-eatery within a few mile radius almost made it a no-brainer. Plus, it had all the things we needed to grow the pickle company.

How did you fund your general store?

Once we decided on purchasing a property, we decided that we would be using our retirement funds to invest in it. We did some research and came across Bill and his team at CatchFire Funding. They made the whole process painless and they were extremely competitive. From there, it was off to the races.

We spent the next two years fully renovating and putting Venango back on the map. Saturday markets, community events, things that the business case outlawed. The fact that if we help rebuild the community, the community would want to reinvest in itself.

Has your business impacted the community?

We’re enjoying positive business flow right now – after the initial opening, but more importantly we’re also seeing other businesses in the area invest where we invest – in their businesses.

So, that we’re seeing people put you know, investments into the properties again, which is always a good sign. Without the help of Bill and his folks at CatchFire, none of this would have been possible.

America’s Small Business Revolution

We just love what the Olenicks are doing for the small town of Venango! If you’re interested in seeing the “before and after” pictures of the fully-restored Venango General Store, you can watch Mark’s testimonial video at the beginning of this article. You can also see the old photos of the original building on Yelp.

Call it a “small business revolution” or a “small business renaissance,” entrepreneurs everywhere are reviving their small communities, one Main Street at a time. They’re bringing back the people’s sense of belonging, of caring for each other, and the sense of being a part of something bigger than themselves, and we’re so glad to be a part of it.

If you feel we’ve lost some of our sense of community in this hectic world and you’d like to bring it back to your own backyard, don’t hesitate to contact CatchFire Funding to see how we can help make your small business dreams come true!