On Thursday, Downtown Ithaca’s 15 STEPS owners Bettsie Park and Ken Jupiter announced that they have sold their gift shop after nearly 40 years of business in the Commons, 171 East State St. The duo intends to retire on Aug. 31.
Scott Dolphin, Todd Nau, and Carol Travis, co-owners of Breathe, a brand name women's clothing and accessories shop also located in the Commons, will take over the specialty gift shop following Park and Jupiter’s departure. Park and Jupiter said that they feel confident in Dolphin’s leadership and his team’s ability to take 15 Steps into the future.
15 STEPS first opened in 1982 with just 21 artists. Park and Jupiter were both craftspeople at the time with a goal of creating a place for American Craftworks to be displayed and purchased at a fair price.
“It’s a long time, but it has been worth it to see 15 STEPS grow,” Park and Jupiter said. “We are proud to have been part of the Ithaca community and proud to have supported the many creative craftspeople we carry... We are confident that passing the torch to Scott, Todd, and Carol is the right move for us, for them, and for this community.”
The shop’s first location was on the second floor of a mercantile building four blocks from downtown. The owners were inspired to name the shop after the 15 steps customers had to climb to get to the original location. Over the 38 years, the business has steadily grown into a Commons’ staple and a home to work produced by over 165 artists from across the country.
Ken Jupiter said that he feels confident the new owners will continue the mission he and Bettsie Park set out with 15 Steps. He said watching the owners of Breathe interact with customers and their enthusiasm for 15 Steps “convinces us that they are the right people to continue the 15 STEPS tradition.”
“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,” said Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson,