One of Marion’s favorite gathering spots was celebrated by the community as the best small business of the year.

The Crooked Door at 11 North Main Street, owned and managed by Rachel Withrow, was deemed Marion’s Small Business of the Year on Tuesday, according to the Marion Business Association.

“I was extremely shocked when I found out,” said Withrow. “It’s a high honor and I’m incredibly thankful for the achievement.”

According to Withrow, her journey into business started at a young age.

“My mom said my sister and I knew what we wanted since we were little,” she said. “I would take everything off the shelves in her room and try to sell it back to her.”

Her first job was at Ideal Rentals, a furniture outlet in Marion where she worked inventory. In November 2010, she would begin working at the coffee shop she would later own.

“The shop opened in 2001, and I had been a regular customer since they opened their door,” said Withrow. Two-and-a-half years later, she was informed the owners were ready to sell.

“After negotiating with them, I offered to buy the store,” said Withrow, who bought The Crooked Door on April 1, 2013. “Everyone automatically assumed it was an April Fool’s Day joke.”

Since that day, The Crooked Door has grown exponentially in business and popularity within the community.

Sandy Avale, a customer at the shop, said he visits, “…at least three to four times a week. It’s a nice atmosphere with great opportunities to meet new people and build conversations.”

According to Withrow, that community bond is what holds small businesses like The Crooked Door together. In fact, Withrow has also worked for other shops like It Can Be Arranged Florist and Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts in addition to her duties at The Crooked Door.

“Shops like these keep the town alive,” said Withrow. “These businesses are intertwined; we work together, feed off each other’s ideas and work with the locals to help each other grow.”

When asked for advice to give other business hopefuls, Withrow was very direct and honest.

“It’s important not to be discouraged,” said Withrow. “I was 23 when I first bought (The Crooked Door) and was anxious to be taken seriously, that I was a respectable business person.”

She has the customers – and the now the award – to prove that.