Ohio Business Owners on Small Business Week: “Everyone Who Enters is Part of Our Story”

As the owner of a small business on a highly trafficked block in the neighborhood of Ohio City, Jennie Doran has never taken the ability to keep her space open for granted.

“We’ve been open ten years as of last November, although retail is kid of like dog years, so it kind of feels like we’ve been here for 45 years,” she laughs.

Jennie and her husband, Andrew Gorell, run an independent lifestyle boutique called Room Service (R/S), which carries products of all different varieties: apparel, gifts, antiques, home goods, and more.

“We curate and carry things we believe are beautiful, unique, and that you can’t find elsewhere,” Jennie explains. “The whole space is about story and interaction, and the products all have their own stories — most are from independent, small makers nationally, but occasionally internationally as well.”

When Jennie learns that it is still legal in 32 states to refuse service to LGBTQ people simply because of who they are or who they love, her look becomes simultaneously confused and disappointed.

“It’s egregious and disgusting to me. As a business owner it is my job to be a part of a welcoming, inclusive community; my face, my work is on this street and in this place every day, and it is my responsibility to represent all that is good and fair about people in this community. It’s horrifying to me to think that even within a radius of this business alone, this behavior could be considered acceptable, and it’s not. That statistic is really upsetting to me.”

Jennie’s entire focus in her business is the importance of storytelling, something that Freedom for All Americans focuses on as well; when stories are shared, it becomes easier for people as a whole to connect.

“What I love about what we’ve created is that it catches people off guard in the most remarkable way. People come here and feel comfortable and inspired; I feel I have discussions and connections with so many different people for so many different reasons, sometimes having nothing to do with the products that we sell.”

“That being said, if someone comes in and falls in love with something, I can say ‘I know who made that, why they made that, why that piece is going to make your life better or make the best gift.’ It’s a combination of my story, the people who share themselves with us, and the people who share their products, so when those three things come together, it’s beautiful — it’s like retail on another level.”

Jennie’s business sense, combined with her personal philosophy, leads her to naturally reach out to those who may have had previous bad experiences with discrimination in other establishments, and to welcome them to her environment, which encourages creativity and exploration.

“I am so thrilled any time someone walks through that door. I’m so happy that they’re here; it is so outside my scope of reality to think about not welcoming every single person. Everyone who enters is part of our story.”

Visit Jennie and Andrew’s store, Room Service (R/S), at www.rscleveland.com

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