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Corning Business Perseveres

Perseverance pays off!  Veronica Damewood and Michelle Birt have learned this fact first-hand after facing adversity, followed by success, as small business owners. 

It was June 2008, just two months after Veronica, Michelle, and their spouses acquired Graphic Ideas and the Vanishing Point Car Wash, when flood waters poured through the streets of Corning and into their businesses.  

"Our neighbor at Corning Rental called us at 5:30 in the morning," Veronica explained.  "By the time we (my husband and I) got here at 6, the water was already in our shop and coming up.  Within an hour to an hour and a half there were townspeople here and we just started backing up trailers and loading stuff out." 

Graphic Ideas and the Vanishing Point Car Wash are located in the same building on the east side of Highway 148, which runs north from Highway 34, on the east side of Corning.  By the time the flood waters stopped rising, the car wash was six feet under water.  The new business owners had no flood insurance and FEMA immediately denied them because they were business owners and not home owners.


"That was certainly a devastating time," Michelle explained.

Veronica and Michelle focus on the graphics side of the business while their husbands, Jon Damewood and Doug Birt, concentrate on the car wash side of the business.  Graphic Ideas was relocated to the Birt's basement for a couple of weeks because there were orders that still needed completed.  The store itself was closed for clean up.  The guys worked quickly to get the car wash re-opened.

Exactly one month later, it happened again.  The flood waters were back.  This time the floods just affected the car wash side of the building, so the recovery process was much less extensive.  To this day though, Michelle said they periodically have issues with the car wash due to the time the equipment spent underwater.

Each time they flooded, the two couples quickly had both businesses back up and running.

They attribute a lot of their success and the quick recovery time after the floods to the assistance they have received from Dave McLaren and the Creston office of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  Veronica and Michelle say they have Dave to thank for helping them get small business funds through the Southern Iowa Council of Governments (SICOG) to help with their flooding expenses.  However, their relationship with Dave goes much deeper than that.

In fact, it was Dave's early meetings with Veronica that gave her the idea of purchasing an existing business instead of opening a new one.  She first connected with Dave through the Corning Chamber of Commerce.

Veronica's original idea was to open a scrapbook store.  According to Veronica, Dave advised her not to go that route because there was already a large scrapbooking business in nearby Creston.  At that point, Dave asked if she had looked at existing businesses in town. 

Veronica and Jon began talking to Doug and Michelle about their entrepreneurial ideas and everything progressed quickly from there.  The foursome soon became partners and purchased their businesses.

To this day, Michelle and Veronica have regular meetings with Dave.  They appreciate when he just stops in and says, "What do you need?"  They also appreciate the business contacts he has throughout the region. 

"He's invaluable to us," Veronica stated.  "He's more of a resource just because of his connections and how we can get together with him for assistance." 

Dave has assisted the businesses with setting up their budgets, setting up profit and loss reports, helping them apply for grants, and just being an overall resource.  He also got them in touch with Brandi Shay, independent consultant for SBDC, for QuickBooks training.

Today, business is good.  Graphic Ideas focuses on customized apparel, vinyl lettering, printing, and promotional items.  Vanishing Point offers a manual or an automatic car wash.  They're even considering ways they can expand their businesses.  "We're always looking for that next niche, but we're always cautious, because sometimes things just don't work out," said Michelle. 

When asked what advice they would give to others who may be considering the start of a new business, Michelle quickly stated, "Use Dave!" 

"There are resources out there (like Dave), utilize them," Michelle continued.  "You're busy enough with the day-to-day business, you don't have a lot of time to research everything out there yourself."

Learn more at

Graphic Ideas business front 

Graphic Ideas/Vanishing Point Car Wash, 900 Quincy Street, Corning, IA 50841.