15 STEPS owners sell their gift shop, retiring after nearly 40 years in business

Bettsie Park and Ken Jupiter standing together in their gift shop

Downtown Ithaca gift shop sold to Breathe co-owners

ITHACA NY AUGUST 25, 2020 —  Downtown Ithaca’s 15 STEPS owners Bettsie Park and Ken Jupiter announce they have sold their gift shop on the Commons and are retiring next month.

15 STEPS has been a part of the Ithaca community for nearly 40 years, selling high quality, handcrafted fiber, glass, wood, pottery, and an extraordinary collection of jewelry produced by extremely skilled American artisans.

The specialty shop will now be owned and operated by Scott Dolphin, Todd Nau, and Carol Travis, co-owners of Breathe, a brand name women’s clothing and accessories shop on the Commons.
Bettsie and Ken started 15 STEPS in 1982 with 21 artists. They were both craftspeople at the time and their shops’ first location was on the second floor of a funky mercantile building four blocks from downtown. To get to the business, customers had to walk up 15 steps, hence the shop’s name.

During 15 STEPS’ opening night, Ken said to Bettsie, “I think we have just married Ithaca.”
Over the years, with the business growing steadily, the owners’ desire to give back to their community also grew and led Bettsie and Ken to “adopt” and lend key support to three area not-for-profits, a meaningful endeavor for both owners.

Park and Jupiter, reflecting on 38 years in business, remark: “It’s a long time, but it has been worth it to see 15 STEPS grow into a thriving business, supporting 165 artists, many who have been with the store over 30 years. We are proud to have been part of the Ithaca community and proud to have supported the many creative craftspeople we carry.  It’s been an amazing adventure!  We will dearly miss our many friends and customers who have brought us joy and satisfaction every day.  We are confident that passing the torch to Scott, Todd, and Carol is the right move for us, for them, and for this community.”

Ken Jupiter observes, “Watching Breathe, with their great customer service orientation, along with the partners’ enthusiasm for what Bettsie and I have built here at 15 STEPS convinces us that they are the right people to continue the 15 STEPS tradition.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson adds, “For decades, 15 STEPS has been an integral part of Downtown Ithaca. Ken and Bettsie have welcomed visitors and local residents for several generations. It is absolutely exciting to have this store transition to new ownership and a new chapter in its life under the guidance of Scott Dolphin. Succession from one owner to another is so important — we are grateful for this successful effort.”

While shopping at Breathe, customers enjoy a welcoming atmosphere, great conversation, and a sense of community.  This is due, in large part, to Breathe’s principal salesperson Stephanie Hayes. Her contributions to how people experience the Commons, and Ithaca, are what keep people coming back, again and again, to Breathe and soon, to 15 STEPS, says Jupiter and Park.

“Hayes is a perfect fit for 15 STEPS. It’s great to see the way she connects with people, the way she builds relationships.  People love her,” Jupiter says.

Breathe’s managing partner Scott Dolphin brings a long and varied career in art and design to his shop, and soon to 15 STEPS.  He recently completed a graduate degree in arts education with emerging technology.

Bettsie Park notes, “Going forward, Dolphin’s many years of design experience will support and enhance the participatory and creative aspects our customers enjoy and expect when shopping at 15 STEPS.  We feel confident that his skills and vision will continue to grow 15 STEPS in a way that our community will enjoy for years.”

For more information about 15 STEPS, visit www.fifteensteps.com. For additional information about Breathe, visit https://breathe.fashion/.

Bettsie Park, 15 STEPS co-owner
(607) 272-4902
Available Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

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Darlene M. Wilber, Communications Manager
Downtown Ithaca Alliance

ABOUT THE DOWNTOWN ITHACA ALLIANCE: The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 and charged with the management, promotion, development, and revitalization of the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District. For more information, visit downtownithaca.com