The Aura Building will be entrepreneurial hub in downtown Greencastle
When she was a little girl, Laura Wallace always liked going to Carl's Drug Store in downtown Greencastle with her great-grandmother.
She's come full circle, and now she and her husband, A.J., are beginning to renovate the 1916 building at 6 E. Baltimore St. that once housed the drug store. The top-to-bottom remodel is aimed at fulfilling her vision for an entrepreneurial hub in her hometown. Vision is a word that comes up often when talking to Wallace, the founder, CEO and creative director of Worx & Co, which specializes in helping small businesses create a brand.
"We work with small businesses in our community and nationwide who are ready to evolve their businesses brand experience to create a cohesive, modern, and approachable look that reflects who they are and the mission they serve," she explains on the Worx & Co website.
Wallace, also a business coach and host of The Gutsy Podcast, is eager to apply what she's learned over the years to support small businesses and be part of the growth and evolution of downtown Greencastle.
The community already has much to offer, but she'd like to see more places to eat and a greater variety places to shop to give people fun things to do "without leaving our zip code."
How they got to 6 E. Baltimore St.
A.J. Wallace and Laura Green were high school sweethearts. He graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 2001, she followed in 2002, and they've been married for 21 years.
A graphic designer who was always interested in the stories behind the businesses she was working with, Wallace quit her job to found Worx & Co when she was 6 1/2 months pregnant with their son Candon, now 14 and an eighth-grader at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School.
Worx & Co has evolved from a small graphics design shop to a full branding studio. It offers not only physical assistance such as office space design, but also the enthusiasm and insight of Wallace, who calls herself an idea generator, motivator and a cheerleader who loves connecting with entrepreneurs.
Wallace ran Worx & Co from the family's house near Greencastle for 9 1/2 years before moving the business to Hagerstown. Eventually, she said, "I really just wanted to come home."
Wallace describes herself as very intuitive and ready to "follow the bread crumbs of what life is pulling me toward."
She was driving home one day, looked at 6 E. Baltimore St., and said to herself, "Hmm, I think that's my building."
She contacted owner Jan Martin of ELM Department Store and said she wanted to rent the third floor. When he said no, she asked it she and her family could look at the building anyway.
"My body lit up like a Christmas tree," Wallace said, explaining she got chills and knew exactly what she wanted to do with the building, which was not for sale.
A week later, she emailed Martin, saying "It would be an honor to purchase your building."
She had shared her vision with Martin, who replied he wanted to make it happen, agreeing to sell the building he'd owned for about two decades and had used for a number of years for the women's clothing part of his business.
"The path was cleared for us to walk through this journey," Wallace said. "This is our building, part of our legacy."
Early on, Wallace joined Business Networking International. She recounts how Karen Horejs of Greencastle, a fellow member and local Realtor, said to her, "You have an aura, an energy."
And Wallace thought, "I should do something with that one day."
Her brand is inspiring, encouraging and spiritual and makes her feel like she can do anything. She named the building for those attributes, too.
In The Aura Building
Wallace's office has been on the first floor of the building since June 2021, and she's been observing what's happening outside the big glass windows, one of which bears the words "LET YOUR AURA SHINE."
A message on the front door reads "A SOON(ISH) TO BE ENTREPRENEURIAL HUB."
There's already been a taste of what's to come with Pop-Up Shops at the Aura, a marketplace for local artisans during Heritage Christmas in December 2021.
The incredible response and "mind-blowing foot traffic" are proof the community is hungry for more and wants to support small businesses, according to Wallace. The synergy and collaboration among the artists made her cry.
"Entrepreneurship can be a lonely place. I think my mission is to create a community within a community for small business owners," she said.
More pop-up shops are planned in conjunction with upcoming community events, including 3rd Saturdays in the Square, Sidewalk Days, Old Home Week and Heritage Christmas.
By next year, the plan is to have five small retail spaces for businesses to lease on the first floor with a shared bathroom, utilities and internet.
Wallace envisions it as a way for small businesses owners to take baby steps while gaining experience and exposure.
If all goes well with the renovations, she will move into her third-floor office by this June. The Wallaces, with help from their "very handy family," are doing some of the work themselves while partnering with as many local small businesses as possible.
"I say 'we' a lot. It may be my vision, but it takes a lot of help ... my collective team," Wallace said.
The third floor is one big unfinished brick room with exposed beams. It's always been used for storage and they found some "very cool old stuff" while cleaning it out, including antiques from the 1920s to 1970s.
It will mainly remain one large open space, with historic character intact and a small soundproofed room in one corner for Wallace's podcast. The Gutsy Podcast features female entrepreneurs from around the world and has been downloaded 38,000 times in over 100 countries.
Like the first floor, co-working space is planned on the second floor, which will have a full open kitchen with seating in the rear room. People will be able to purchase day or monthly passes to work there. With many working from home, it will provide a place for human connection.
"It's like a house for business. You can bring your laptop and do your thing," Wallace said.
The multi-use front room overlooking East Baltimore Street will have movable, modular furniture and will be rentable for business events, workshops, classes and team meetings.
The second floor should be finished this year.
"If it's supposed to happen sooner, it will," Wallace said. "I don't want to rush it. I want to do it right the first time. I don't want to sacrifice the vision."
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org