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Posted by on Jun 22, 2017 in Giveaways, In The News | 0 comments

The Valpak Shop Small® Contest Winners

Valpak AMEX Shop Small contest

Better service, lower prices, less hassle, more love…there are many reasons we love to Shop Small.

You know, the local shop or restaurant where no nametags are needed and nobody does it better. The place you came to with your parents and now with your kids. Or the hidden gem you recently discovered and can't stop talking about.

Over the last several weeks, you have nominated your favorite small business. Well, the winners have been chosen and here they are:

Valpak Shop Small Contest Saturn Booksellers

Saturn Booksellers is my favorite place on earth. It's an eclectic small town bookstore in the heart of Gaylord, MI. It's a staple in the community, a safe haven for ideas and opinions, and just the all-around coolest place to come hang out.

They are a one-stop shop offering the greatest customer service, a fine selection of books, and the coolest gifts and toys that you can't find anywhere else. The owner is community-minded and often donates to local causes, whether in the form of a monetary donation or goods for a raffle or auction. The store also participates in local fundraisers, gives discounts to libraries and teachers, and brings in bestselling authors.

I love the way they work one on one to find the best selection of books for a customer.

Each customer is thanked for shopping, shopping local, and supporting a downtown business. They pay attention to the wants and needs of the community, they support other local businesses and events, and they are always willing to help teachers and community members get books to children. They are a pillar in the community, so it is no surprise they've been able to stick around for 25 years.

Darcie L.

Valpak Shop Small Contest Columbus Idea Foundry

How many places can you go to take a blacksmithing class? Or welding and 3D-printing classes, for that matter?

The Columbus Idea Foundry provides a unique opportunity for hobbyists and budding entrepreneurs to gain hands-on experience with a wide range of skills. You pay monthly dues for access to the community workshop space, which also grants you discounts on classes for everything from leather working to making podcasts.

When you step inside the Idea Foundry, you’ll find a warehouse abuzz with creativity. There are individual workstations for every manner of metal or wood-working. Upstairs, you’ll find a more digital-oriented tinkering space.

The Idea Foundry is helping to revitalize this area into an arts district and has become the anchor point around which new restaurants and galleries can form. Recently, they hosted a Product Hunt Meet up with another local company to showcase Columbus startups. They also have a Family Maker Night series with STEM-oriented projects, which I think is a great way to get kids interested in building technology.

Diane K. 

Valpak Shop Small Contest Baxter & Me

Finding herself as a young single mother after her divorce, she worked in real estate and then taught herself to paint, and then opened her gift shop featuring her art.

She gives generously, helping her community when the cause arises. Recently adopting St Jude's in Memphis as her cause for November 2016 and featured a local little girl Gracie Mae (who is a cancer patient there) to model for her, filling the store with her photos', selling 'Grace Wins' tee-shirts, and donating 100% of sale of those shirts and 10% of sales for the whole month of Nov. to St. Jude's. It was a special day when she allowed Gracie to give the check when St Jude's came to receive it. She is always helping someone with a leg up, a kind word, or encouragement.

She has received 'Best Window' award from the Alliance several years running, and its deserved. She makes up for her lack of space by utilizing every single inch, and then changing it, over and over. I had ladies last week exclaiming how wonderful the store made them feel, it was their first time visiting, and they now have a new favorite store!

I love she always tries to use local artists, or feature local items, such as the goat milk soap. If someone brings her a window from their grandparents old home that has been torn down, or the church they were married in, she gladly paints whatever they want on it, giving them a really wonderful keepsake. Those things are priceless.

Karen A.

Valpak Shop Small Contest Club MMA

They care. Honestly, I could attempt to write down what this school means to my community, but it wouldn't do it justice. This is a wonderful establishment. It helps those who want to change their body or lifestyle. It helps kids who need structure and discipline. It helps adults who need more motivation, and gives them a place to find others in the same spot. This place makes my town better, and it's as much the people who teach as it is what is taught.

A variety of martial arts, from striking disciplines such as TKD and Muay Thai kickboxing, to grappling arts such as Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and many others. This place gives kids a chance to meet friends, by hosting pizza parties on weekends, and playing games with the kids while their parents get a chance to run errands or relax a bit. They also travel to state and regional tournaments, giving the students a chance to compete with others, and helping them to grow in their chosen disciplines. I can't say enough good things about Club MMA, because they really do give my community something to be proud of. They've helped my daughters become happier, healthier little girls. They've helped many parents become more confident in their children's abilities to make responsible decisions. They've shown our community how to start a business with nothing other than hard work, resilience, positive attitude and an honest approach. They've also given back to my community by building a responsible team of young people, a team who'll will be going out into the world and trying to make it for themselves soon. Those kids would all tell you that they have gotten more from Club MMA than they could ever have imagined in the beginning. Kids are the future. The folks at Club MMA are helping to make sure that our children are equipped with skills and confidence. The world needs places like this, badly. Not just my town, but everywhere. We need to find our way back to having unity within our communities. Club MMA is promoting acceptance to all who are willing to put in the work. They are a team and a family, and they offer a place in that family to any who believe enough in themselves to show up to class. In my opinion, that is more valuable than just about any service available.

The classes at the Club are top notch, but it also has a fully-stocked pro shop complete with original graphic tees, customizable training gear, and many other items that make your experience at the Club a better one. All very original, durable and reasonably priced. Classes are very affordable, but if students can't make it in all of the time, Jeff and his crew have put together a web series of training videos that can aid in keeping up the skills of those training. The Club has a toy area for young kids to play in, a fully stocked exercise room with weights and other equipment, and ample space for movement in between. The staff and Coaches are really the difference makers though. They make you feel welcome, and help you learn at your own pace. That makes a big difference for people who are taking the class for fitness reasons, or have been idle due to surgeries or pregnancies, because often it is easier to become fatigued or exhausted after long periods of inactivity. Working too hard too fast can often lead to failure or injury, and the Coaches at Club MMA know that. They treat everyone with a degree of individual care, and really strive to bring everyone to the same level, even if it requires a range of tactics to achieve the goal. I am continually impressed with the abilities of the Coaches of the kids classes, to not only maintain control over a varied group of energetic and occasionally obstinate youngsters, but to succeed in relaying their martial arts knowledge in a manner that sinks in and is retained by the students. It really does amaze me, and is one of the things that makes me confident that my children will be attending classes at the Club for a good portion of their lives. There I am completely secure in my children's safety and well-being, and know that they are receiving skills and confidence that will help them to shine in the future. As a Dad, that makes me feel great.

I go to the Club more for my kids these days than for any other reason, and I love the kids programs, but I've taken my own classes there as well. I've taken their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, their Muay Thai kickboxing class, and their Kali stick class. I would highly recommend all of them. All of the class are taught by highly trained individual who've spent years, if not decades, honing their abilities. They've traveled around the world learning new skills, and are both active and successful in local and regional competitions. Of the classes, I would say that the most energy and focus is to be found in either the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or the Muay Thai class, depending on whether or not a striking or grappling focus is sought. Both classes will take a completely unskilled and non-athletic individual, and will help them through the steps necessary to begin to change the things about them that they'd like to. Not only is getting into shape easier when you have others showing you how to do it, it's more fun when you are getting fit while learning an active form of self defense. For those who'd rather not train in rigorous martial arts, the Club offers both certified personal training and yoga classes.

My personal story is one that is not always easy to tell, but is one that the Club has helped me to tell along the way. I first began taking classes at the club when I was a young man looking for a way to escape from life's burdens. I was in my 30's, in a dead-end job, and was in a rut. After talking with Jeff, he convinced me to come down train. It started in me a push to want to better myself, in many ways. I began exercising more, and eating better. I stopped going out so much, and started getting more sleep at night. I even stopped meeting some of the negative relationships in my life half way, and left them in the dust behind me. It gave me a kind of "restart button" for my life, and at just the right time. My Wife and I had been trying for many years to have a family, had spend much money on unsuccessful fertility treatments, and were close to what I would call being depressed. I really needed a positive out for the energy building inside me, and the Club was there for me. Years have since gone by, and my Wife and I have chosen to adopt 2 beautiful little girls. They are the world to us, but they've had a rough start, and have needed some special care throughout their adjustment period with us. We immediately began taking the kids up to "ninja classes" as they are lovingly referred to at home, and the kids loved them. They've both gone from 1 day a week to 2 days a week, have made friends, and love their Coaches. They look forward to every day that they know they are going, and ask the night before if they get to go to "ninja class". It makes me feel so good. Not only has the Club done this for myself and my family, they do this for so many others. They are always hosting community events to bring the kids and families together, they are always teaching unity and equality, and because of these things, they are the #1 martial arts school in the area. They are community. They are our neighborhood heroes, and what they do for us can't really be done justice with typed words. You have to see the children and students, how Club MMA helps them to grow, to understand it. Club MMA gives back to the community more than they take, which is very hard to find today. They are a special place doing great things for the lives of their students and the families of those students.

John J.