To be unique is to be remembered and that’s especially true for small businesses.
Defiance County is home to several small businesses, which offer many special experiences and wares to customers. They also help create memories and support the community.
At Just Be Original–JBO Fine Arts Academy in the Northtowne Mall, visitors can take part in parties, classes or purchase a distinctive piece of artwork. Owner Jennifer Boyd was an art and music teacher before making the switch to business owner. “I decided that Defiance could use a place to create and paint and have fun,” she said of JBO, which opened in 2013 in downtown and has since relocated to the mall.
Fun is also a big part of the Fun Company in downtown Defiance. “It is fun to be here,” said owner Mandy Osterfeld. The Defiance store, which opened in 2021, is the third location of the business. The first was in Bellefontaine, where Osterfeld and her husband took over the teacher store about three years ago turning it into the Fun Company. “Toys are more fun to shop (for) in person,” she said, stating it’s fun to be in a toy store. “You can see, touch and play in person. The toy store of our childhood is coming back.”
While JBO and the Fun Company are relatively new in Defiance, there also are landmark small businesses that are synonymous with the town. Bud’s Restaurant is one example. Bud’s began as Bud’s Hamburger Shop in 1939 by Bud Deatrick. It has had many owners over the years with members of the Mayer family owning it since 1952. Matt and Sue Mayer took ownership of the long-standing business from Matt’s parents in April 2011.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to own a business that has been here as long as we have and support Defiance and the community,” Matt Mayer said.
Each business owner said there are many great things about being a small business in Defiance.
Boyd said she loves to see people creating all the time “even those that are really nervous about it.” “Eventually they realize they can do this and make really amazing pieces,” she said, adding that it really helps to build people’s self confidence. Boyd said she also loves “seeing kids happy and proud of what they have made” and “seeing people smiling over something we have done – knowing we are making a difference.” Boyd added that towns like Defiance need unique businesses where everyone is welcome. “We need places where all ages can gather,” she said. “Create something unique. Put the phone and electronic down for a while and enjoy each others company (and do something education as well). Art is definitely therapy and is great for mental health. We need more of that in today’s crazy world.” JBO also does FUNdraisers for various community organizations and programs such as Relay for Life, the humane society, Imagination Library and more.
While new, Osterfeld said the customers in Defiance have been “awesome” and really have enjoyed playing and getting with the various games, toys, puzzles and crafts the Fun Company offers. She said being in Defiance has been a “blessing.” Osterfeld said she hopes the business' toys really help kids learn and as well as support their development. They also can create fun for all ages.
“Because we have a background as a teachers’ store, we understand kids learn better when having fun,” Osterfeld said, adding the store carries toys not found at big box stores. “A lot of adults come in here and say ‘it’s fun.’ You can touch and play with everything. Who doesn’t like that?”
Hometown favorites are also something everyone loves.
Mayer said it’s very important to have a place like Bud’s in the community. Bud’s has helped with various community projects and events throughout the years including Christmas for Kids. “Every town should have a little place that has been there that supports the community and the community supports them,” he said. “It’s just a staple that everybody knows is going to be there. When there kids leave and come back to town, they know it will still be there. (For Defiance) it’s basically Bud’s and Kissner’s. When people come back to town, they come to Kissner’s for a favorite sandwich and when they come to Bud’s they want their big pies (Bud’s had orders for 285 pies for Thanksgiving alone). It keeps people coming back and keeps people together.”
Being a small business does have some challenges. Staffing is something all three businesses said they find as a challenge now. Mayer added that keeping up with new trends and technology also is something that can be difficult.
Relocating a few times has been a challenge as is staying “fresh,” Boyd said of her business as well. “We want to make sure we are offering everything we can to the community they want to see,” she said. “It’s all about being of service to the community and are we doing them justice.”
Each business though is poised and have plans for the long-term in the community. “We hope to serve the community for years and years to come,” Boyd said. “We hope these bast eight years have secured us a spot in the heart of our community enough to keep us here. We have lots of plans with this new space (in the mall) – lot of new ideas and new things to offer and do.”
Osterfeld said the Fun Company is planning to shut down in February and move to another location downtown two blocks from the current site. “We will have a grand opening in February,” she said. “We will have expanded offerings like birthday parties and workshops.”
Mayer said Bud’s plans to continue to support the Defiance community for many years to come as well.