Track coach, former teacher open store in Belpre

Photo by Brett Dunlap The owners and employees of the new Inspire 111 store at the Washington Square Shopping Center join with Belpre Chamber of Commerce officials and Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz for a ribbon cutting for their new store.

BELPRE — A successful Belpre business is taking things to the next level as it opens a storefront at the Washington Square Shopping Center.

Inspire 111 recently held a grand opening at its new store, at 1818 Washington Blvd., Suite A. The event, which was attended by over 50 people, included a ribbon cutting with owners John and Amber Carter, Belpre Chamber of Commerce officials and Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz.

The shop is a “a one-stop shop for personalizing,” John Carter said of their custom screen-printing and embroidery business.

“If it is anything personalized, we do it,” he said. “We basically covered every single avenue that I can possibly imagine.”

Those include personalized T-shirts, uniforms, banners, awards, apparel, signs, decals, promotional gifts, bling, glitter and rhinestones. They do senior banners for local high school students.

Photo by Brett Dunlap Tori Fleming, an employee at Inspire 111 in Belpre, adds vinyl decorations to a T-shirt for an order at the business’s new store at the Washington Square Shopping Center in Belpre.

The name Inspire 111 came from Colossians 1:11 in the King James Bible, “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness.”

The business started six years ago, operating out of the couple’s vehicle. During their first year, they made around $10,000 which they used to fund their travel to participate in marathon running events.

“We thought we would start it on the side as a hobby and then people started coming around all the time and giving us business,” John said. “It just snowballed.”

The couple would regularly go out to events and through word-of-mouth and handing out business cards, they built up a list of regular clients.

The business soon took over their basement and garage which prompted the couple to seek out a business location where they could set up a shop.

“We have gotten to the point we were bursting at the seams of our house so we didn’t think we could keep that up,” John said.

They have around three employees, mostly Belpre City Schools students. They had employees coming to their house all the time and working out of their home.

“We had grown to a point where we couldn’t support it out of our house anymore,” John said.

The couple wanted to find some place in Belpre that could suit their needs.

“We are all about the local community,” John said.

Amber Carter said it was her family, her father and soon-to-be stepmother, who encouraged them to take this chance to open the shop.

“They were the ones who said ‘Go for it,'” she said. “We never would have made it to this point without all of the support of our friends and family members, community members and the local schools and clubs.”

During the grand opening, Amber thanked all of those who have done business with them as she hoped to be able to build new business relationships with the new store.

“We never thought we would be at this point and opening a storefront,” she said. “It is because of all of you helping our business grow. We really appreciate it.”

Since moving into the shop, they have gone from 600 to 2,000 square feet of space.

For the couple, opening the shop was also about maintaining their relationships with the community

Amber is a former Belpre City Schools teacher and John has been the Belpre Girls Track coach for three years.

“I can’t thank the Belpre community enough, especially Belpre High School students,” John said. “I love hiring Belpre High School students to work here.”

They do a lot of business with Fort Frye, Warren, Waterford and Belpre schools as well as some business with Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg South and Eastern Local Schools.

“We cater to all local high schools,” John said. “We are trying to get into the business side of things. We do promotional items like key chains, magnets, car magnets and calendars.”

They also do awards, trophies and plaques.

“Everything is laser engraved,” John said.

The business has tumbler cups, coasters, coffee mugs and other things that can be engraved. They offer same day printing on in-stock merchandise. The Carters can meet with clients and work up a design in the shop.

“We have chairs and can put it up on screens so people can see their design coming together. We can create their design right on the spot.”

“Someone comes in who wants a Christmas gift, but it is the 24th of December, they can choose one of our stock designs and be able to walk out with a Christmas gift that day that is personalized with their name on it,” John said.

The Carters are big into fundraising and have done spirit wear for schools and athletic organizations when their business was just getting started.

“For every item sold, we give back $5 to the organization,” John said.

The shop is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays. That could change, based on demand.

With the opening of the shop, it shows the new direction the City of Belpre is going, said Karen Waller, executive director of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This is where we get to celebrate someone who has stepped out, someone who has made a commitment to this community and back that commitment up with their time, their money and their talents,” she said at the grand opening. “It is what is happening in the community. For Amber and John, it is about the young people in the community.”

Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said small businesses are opening in Belpre which is exciting.

“Look around our city and see what is happening with these small businesses popping up,” he said. “They are a blessing to all of us, because it is one more trip we can make here instead of going across the bridge. For the first time in a long time, Belpre is supporting Belpre. That is what we ought to be about.”

Lorentz talked about local residents caring more about what is going on in their city with levies passed to help emergency responders and others.

“We are paying more attention to what is happening at home and in our city,” he said. “These young folks are stepping out to make this a better place to live. This is what we should be doing.”