Ohio Couple Combines Passions through Launch of CDFI-Funded Gift and Tackle Shop
Client: Angie Dingess, owner of AJ’s Mercantile LLC
Client Location: Wheelersburg, OH
CDFI Service Area: OH
Financing and technical assistance, with support from the Finance Justice Fund
AJ’s Mercantile and Tackle Box is a hybrid gift shop and fishing supply store in Wheelersburg, Ohio. The shop offers high-end fishing gear and outdoor supplies alongside artisanal olive oils, pottery, and loose-leaf teas that owner Angie Dingess blends herself. The store opened in March 2021 as a collaboration between Angie and her husband, Joe.
Angie and Joe decided to open the business back home as a change of pace following more than 20 years working in careers that moved them around the country – Angie in healthcare administration and Joe in the railroad industry.
Connecting Passion with Purpose
Joe and his friends love catfishing on the Ohio river, while Angie prefers crafting and cooking. Instead of compromising their individual visions for the business, the couple decided to combine their passions side-by-side. Part of the appeal of AJ’s is the sheer variety of inventory they offer, and ECDI, an Ohio-based community development financial institution (CDFI), helped make it possible.
“We struggled to keep up with the inventory because we funded everything ourselves. We had to wait to sell everything before we could re-stock our best-selling items. Bonnie from ECDI told us we could get a loan to free up capital, which changed everything. I did everything online, got an amazing rate, and they actually came to me to sign the papers. We were able to add pottery, more high-end fishing rods, and the roasted coffees that have all sold really well,” Angie said.
“ECDI has been so helpful with free small business training and the loan. It’s great having all these resources together. Everywhere I’d worked before had everything separated into a bunch of different departments. It’s so convenient as a business owner that there’s a single place I can go to for answers and information,” Angie added.
AJ’s is also committed to giving back to their community whenever they can. They partner with local businesses to sponsor charity fishing tournaments, with proceeds going to local children’s homes and families, and one corner of the store even serves as a lending library.
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