by TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
Bloomington’s downtown Square has long been home to women-owned businesses. The Book Corner, owned by Margaret Taylor, has been here since 1964, and Cheryl Nichoalds, owner of Tivoli Fashions, was one of the original tenants in Fountain Square Mall when it opened in 1987. But today, many of the shops, restaurants, and services that flank the Monroe County Courthouse are owned by women—at last count, at least 18 at ground level.
Amanda Forgas and Kelly Jennings, co-owners of Mirth women’s boutique, are the newest female entrepreneurs on the block, having opened in November. “We have felt so much support and appreciation from our customers and other business owners,” Forgas says. “Living in Bloomington, where so many people have taken that leap to offer the community their talents and energy, is inspiring. The fact that a large portion of Bloomington’s shop and restaurant owners are women is even more inspiring.”
Bridgett DiVohl opened Royale Hair Parlor seven years ago. She says after managing businesses in small towns in Indiana, and in big cities like Cincinnati and Chicago, she felt Bloomington was the right place to have her own salon. “To be completely honest, we [DiVohl and her wife, Steph] had no connection to Bloomington before moving here,” she says. “We knew that it was a progressive community, that we could see ourselves being supported here as women and as out lesbians. Everything that we have poured our hearts into, we have seen a return of love and support.”
DiVohl says there is a sense of solidarity among women business owners, both on the Square and beyond, and when Tracy Gates opened The Inkwell two years ago, DiVohl was happy to become a regular patron. “I rely on that space for meetings all the time,” DiVohl says. To Gates, the high volume of women-owned businesses in Bloomington speaks to the strength of women.
“I think women are hard workers and just get stuff done,” Gates says. “Women are brave. It takes a lot of courage to do your own thing. Anybody can start a business, but showing up every day, being on your best behavior, motivating your staff, and taking care of the details is the hard part. In my personal opinion, that’s where women thrive.”