Women empower women in power

The exterior of Old Town Creperie, which is owned by Jamie Whelan and her wife, Laura Anne Whelan-Chapman.

Downtown Flagstaff is both a tourist hotspot and hub of activity in the city. Most downtown businesses are locally owned and run by community members, with a large majority of those businesses operated by men.

However, some Flagstaff businesses are run by women who had to go the extra mile due to the historic patriarchal nature of our society. The women who break this mold do not let fear hold them back, and they push with everything they have to be successful.

Jessica Garnello, the owner of Crystal Magic in downtown Flagstaff, is one example of a female business owner who has found success.

“My family started Crystal Magic back in 1984, and I am a third-generation [owner],” Garnello said. “My grandfather started it and it has been passed along through my family until it got to me. I guess you could say it is in my blood. I was raised in these crystal stores and could not imagine a more important path to have taken with my life than to continue on my family’s legacy.”

At Crystal Magic, there are only female employees and although this is not an intentional decision, Garnello said it creates a very unique working environment. Garnello said she feels very blessed and fortunate that her father, who was her business partner, entrusted the business to her. Garnello said she took over the store almost eight years ago.

“Since taking over this store, I believe I have grown tremendously as a person,” Garnello said. “I strive to offer my staff a safe, enjoyable and abundant work environment. I strive to offer my customers the most unique and beautiful experience I can. My priorities in life have shifted to helping others, which was a beautiful lesson to learn. I owe who I am now to this store and to the amazing people I have had supporting me throughout my experience, both my family and my incredible staff.”

Miranda Sweet, the owner of a boutique called Rainbow’s End, had a very different experience to get her shop up and running. Sweet said she had to work hard to earn the respect of the male business owners around downtown when she first started 20 years ago.

Above all, Sweet said that finding a mentor is the best course of action one can take when starting. Finding someone with pure intentions who is willing to teach and guide can be helpful. Sweet said that a mentor is something even she wished she had when she was starting her business.

“I was young, and being a woman, I just remember going to meetings and feeling like my voice was silent,” Sweet said. “I would bring something up but wouldn’t get the same consideration as the men. I’ve got a lot of gumption so, I was not about to let anyone stop me from pursuing my dream.”

After 20 long years of running Rainbow’s End, Sweet decided to run for a spot on city council in this year’s election. Sweet said this experience will help with her campaign, as she’s spent 20 years in the working community. She knows her business, but she also knows what the community struggles with, loves, and what residents want for now and for the future.

The Old Town Creperie is owned and operated by city councilmember and Flagstaff mayoral candidate Jamie Whelan and her wife, Laura Anne Whelan-Chapman. They took over The Creperie in 2007 from John Conley, and it was a spur of the moment decision that has grown into being a large part of both their lives.

Whelan credits Laura Anne for the creperie’s success. Whelan said Whelan-Chapman is the face of the creperie while she handles the business aspects.

“I have this beautiful wife who thinks creperie, runs creperie and is truly the crepe lady. I just get to be a part of it,” Whelan said. “We’re constantly thinking and working together, especially with the changes that are coming.”

As the only creperie in Flagstaff, one is guaranteed to get the best crepes in town at the Old Town Creperie, where good music and a great environment can be expected. Although the creperie is closed for the winter season due to the outdoor seating, it operates from the first Friday of May until Halloween.

Women in positions of power were once a rarity in society, but with original trailblazers like Sweet and many others in the community, women are encouraged now more than ever to pursue their passions.