Dames Bond Marketplace opens in Short North
For Mary B. Relotto, it's been like falling in love again.
The Clintonville woman founded Dames Bond, which she bills as the "first all-female networking community specifically designed to actively market the expertise of women in business," in 2006.
The organization, which combined networking events with an online presence for members, was dear to Relotto's heart, and over the years it garnered the attention for Forbes and ForbesWoman magazines. Dames Bond was most recently mentioned in U.S. News and World Report as "one of the top eight handy sites for networking events."
Relotto loved the recognition for what she created.
But as membership grew over the years, Relotto said last week that some who joined "weren't being served properly" on the website. These women weren't consultants or auto mechanics or counselors; they didn't sell real estate or insurance, give massages or house-sit pets, offer financial advice or do interior decorating.
These underserved members, "made products that had to be seen, touched, tasted and experienced," according to Relotto.
What's a Dame to do?
Relotto decided to open a store: Dames Bond Marketplace.
"Our first thought was to stay in Clintonville," Relotto said last week. "That's where our office was."
She couldn't work things out with the landlord, so now both the office of Dames Bond and Dames Bond Marketplace are located at 1188 N. High St. in the Short North. The store sells items from 32 women, ranging from jewelry to jams to greeting cards, and including fine art, photography and even barbecue sauce.
"The Marketplace brings Dames Bond's exceptional, online business directory to life, making it tangible," Relotto said in announcing the opening in mid-September.
The location in the Garden District of the Short North, named for a former movie theater across the street, has worked out well, according to Relotto -- possibly better than a North High Street spot in Clintonville.
"The foot traffic is much greater," she said. "People are drawn to the Short North. During the weekend this is a destination for not only eating and drinking but also shopping."
Gallery Hop events, the first Saturdays of every month, have been especially helpful in bringing even more exposure to Dames Bond as a result of the location.
"I'm in love all over again, and I say that almost with a tear in my eye," Relotto said. "My job is to make sure consumers know about my members. I'm always thinking about what more can I do, what should I do next?
"I'm thoroughly enjoying the new discovery of Dames Bond."
The networking events that were the launching pad for the organization are still taking place, with the next one set for Dec. 3 at the store, with a program on social media.
In addition, weekly events involving the women whose wares are represented at the shop are held, with "Meet the Dame Maker" gatherings on Fridays to introduce the artist to attendees and "Make and Take with the Dame" workshops on Saturdays and Sundays.
The next major Dames Bond conference is scheduled for Feb. 5 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. in the Brewery District. It will be "all about prospering and harvesting collective intelligence," Relotto said.
Dames Bond Marketplace is closed on Mondays. Regular hours are noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, noon to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and most Saturdays, with the exception of Gallery Hop the first of the month when hours are extended to 10 p.m.