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City girls

Merchants Assoc. founders share history, friendship
With dreams and hearts as big as Texas, Nancy Swindell and Carol Rejcek guided the Historic Downtown Merchants Association into rosy existence.
In visiting many parts of the state in search of unique merchandise, the businesswomen who have made their mark in the floral and crafts industry, saw what promotional ideas worked in other cities and decided to give them a try at home.
“You can tell a lot about a city by the look of its downtown and we definitely wanted to make sure our downtown said a lot of good things about Ennis,” Swindell said.
From that fledgling idea, the Historic Downtown Merchants Association was formed. That was six years ago, and Rejcek and Swindell have been working ever since to spotlight the best of Ennis in their plans to draw visitors to the downtown area.
“We get a lot of help from the Chamber of Commerce and the Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau to help make our events run smoothly, as well as volunteers or others we recruit,” Rejcek said.
Recruiting volunteers is a task they have mastered in the years since starting celebrations like the “Autumn Days in Ennis” Fall Festival and the “Goblins and Ghosts” Halloween Bash.
The inspiration for the “Autum Days” festival was the women’s shared love of nostalgia, and they put their heads together to come up with an event that would showcase the bygone era Ennis evokes as well as encourage family fellowship and merchant participation.
“We know the importance of keeping your family and friends close, so we wanted to create an event that would allow that environment,” Rejcek said. “The world is so fast paced today that giving the community an opportunity to slow down and enjoy each other was a joy for us to plan.”
Pulling off an event that’s grown as quickly as the Fall Fest is something Swindell said has surprised her.
“I knew what we wanted to do and being a member of the Garden Club and seeing how well the Bluebonnet Trails Festival works, I knew we had the perfect blueprint to work from but the growth the festival has seen in such a short time is amazing,” Swindell said. “The Merchants Association is really proud of what we have accomplished.”
Their appreciation of family and carefree yesterdays is also what motivated them to organize the Downtown Merchants’ Goblins and Ghosts Bash, another family-friendly evening event that promotes community involvement in a safe atmosphere on Halloween.
“The Halloween event was something we both really got into not only because it has something for everyone, no matter which neighborhood you’re from, but also because it is just so much fun,” Swindell said.
Rejcek, Swindell, Julianna Gilmore of Felcman’s, Gina Rokas of ECVB and other members of the Merchants Association go to great lengths in transforming Minnie McDowal Park into a spooky cemetery while arranging games, prizes and other features for kids of all sizes to enjoy.
“It’s a lot of work to pull the Halloween bash off because it is usually only two weeks from the Fall Fest, but it is worth it to us and it’s grown to take on a life of it’s own from year to year,” Swindell said. “We get so much satisfaction from being able to provide that kind of environment to the kids and their parents that all the late nights are worth it. However, we would not be able to make it happen without generous donations from local industries as well as the help of the Ennis Arts Commission.”
Six years after forming the Merchants Association, the driving force behind the events the group sponsors remains the love both women have for Ennis and its people.
“We both just have a tremendous love and appreciation for the city and what it used to be as well as where it is headed and we work to do our part to help make it an amazing place to live and raise a family,” Rejcek said.
Their giving spirit is something both women have incorporated into their work lives as well. Rejcek, whose business acumen combines with Swindell’s creativity, has made Garden Gate Floral and Gifts the go-to place for high-end crafts and décor items as well as beautiful flowers for special occasions, from weddings and anniversaries to proms and private parties.
“We see people on the most important days of their lives and we go to great lengths to treat them and their families the way we’d treat our own,” Rejcek said.
“I believe it is a calling to be able to do it. Your life is never really your own but what you do for others.”
Besides working in a field they love, Swindell and Rejcek agree that if they weren’t able to bring a little fun into their work, neither of them would do it.
“I think Carol and I are both the kind of people that if things weren’t fun, we just wouldn’t continue doing it,” Swindell admitted.
“We both know life is too short to waste a day not enjoying yourself and being happy.”
The friendship the pair has formed is also something they cherish, and each accepts the part they play in it with good humor.
To many in town, the duo is a high-class version of the Bopsy Twins.
“We do have a Lucy and Ethel type relationship,” Carol laughed.
“Nancy is Lucy because she’s the adventurous one, flies by the seat of her pants into all kinds of new situations,” Recjek said. “And I’m Ethel because I’m the more serious, quiet one who wants to just sit back and take it all in, but it works out very well.”
Asked to share the secret of their success in business and friendship, Swindell said, “Be yourself and have a good time because every day is a gift. And if you can, give a little back.”

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Posted by on Mar 21 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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