East Main Street in downtown Springfield is home to Champion City Guide & Supply, a four-year-old visitors center that doubles as a retail store for the town.
Champion City is exclusive to the city of Springfield, as it is not a chain, but a partner of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Convention Visitors Bureau (C.V.B.).
Chris Schutte, director of the C.V.B., grew up in Springfield and had the idea of Champion City as a way to show city pride.
“I really like being in Champion City because of the people I get to meet, whether it’s the Wittenberg students we have as interns or the people of Springfield,” Kelcie Webster, manager of Champion City and Marketing Coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce said.
Webster is also a 2014 Wittenberg graduate. She studied communication as her major and interned for the Chamber of Commerce her junior and senior years. Now, she gets to see firsthand how Champion City helps the Springfield economy.
“It feels like this is a good start for bringing more business to downtown Springfield,” Webster said. “The more business you can add downtown, the more it helps. It’s cool to be a part of it on the business side.”
The store’s name is drawn from Springfield’s nickname, Champion City. When William Whiteley invented the self-raking reaper in Springfield during the 1800s, it revolutionized agriculture and was called the Champion Reaper. The city became known as Champion Reaper City where the product was produced, and was later shortened to Champion City.
The store goes for the same feel that a Homage store would, with Ohio branded items everywhere one looks. The difference is that the majority of items specifically represent the history of Springfield, Ohio. The most popular item for buyers seems to be graphic t-shirts, retailing for around $20. A shirt representing Springfield’s North High School, which was built in 1960 and no longer exists, is especially popular among customers.
Despite the young, modern feel of the store, customers do not tend to be young adults like Wittenberg students, but rather established residents of the Springfield community. Webster thinks this is because the historic Springfield branding appeals more to those who have been in the town longer than Wittenberg students, and therefore have deeper ties. She hopes for more business from a younger crowd to sport the apparel.
“Even though we love what it is right now, the creative team would love to make the store better and see it grow,” Webster said. “We want it to have more of a brand recognition.”
Champion City sells Wittenberg junior Daniel Murray’s Grizzly Springs headwear and senior Josh Marks’ Updog apparel. Wittenberg students get 10 percent off their purchase, so stop by to shop locally at a discount.