September 12, 2019 Local shop owner honors family and community with 'Give Back Days' for the REES by Jamie Fleury

PLYMOUTH —  Sandy Saenz, owner of ‘Simplee Stated Gifts’, will launch her first quarterly ‘Give Back Days’ event during Plymouth sidewalk sales in September. Saenz will be donating 15% of her sales to the Rees Theatre on Friday, September 20 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, September 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To Saenz, the Rees Theatre is more than a building. “Like any true, historic monument, in order to keep it alive will take some effort.” 

Saenz was raised by her parents Bill and Rita with a giving heart. “I’ve always been one of those people who has been about giving. Whether somebody needs this or somebody needs that, I have tried to help. That came from my parents who instilled that in my heart. Up until they passed away, it didn’t matter if they were struggling themselves, if they could help they helped.”

Giving back is a tradition she carries on with her husband Greg, who both taught the same to their children, Amber and Austin. “We both came from very good families. Both of us had very giving families. His family was just as giving as my family was.” 

“Giving is something that my husband and I, along with my kids have all tried to do in some way. If somebody needed something, we tried to help out whatever way we could. As a business owner, I still feel that is part of it. As a business owner, a lot of people will come in, a lot of groups, and want a donation for a silent auction. I donate to as much of that as I possibly can as a way to help them because I understand. I have been on plenty of fundraising committees myself for events and I know what that is like.” 

Saenz wanted to do more. As a business owner I was thinking ‘How can I help a little bit more?’ What could I do to make more of an impact? So I decided to launch ‘Days of Giving’ once a quarter to benefit a local not-for-profit organization.” 

Sandy explained why she chose the Rees to benefit from her first event. “It is very sentimental and I get a little emotional.” she shared as her voice broke against her tears. “It is an emotional attachment because I know what that theatre did for me. Small towns and small communities need these. We need to try to keep the Rees alive.” 

Movies have been important to Saenz and her family her whole life. She worked at River Park Theatre where she met her husband of thirty three years, “I grew up in South Bend. My first job at 16 years old was River Park Theatre. Candy girl. Concession stand. Selling tickets. I was eventually assistant manager and then manager. The whole thing. Like the Rees, it was one screen in a small community. But, I met my husband. So, it’s very sentimental to me. If it wasn’t for that job I would not be married to the man that I have been married to for 33 years.” she smiled with tears in her eyes. 

“I picked the Rees first because of what a single screen, small town theatre means to me. What it did for me.” Saenz was 16 years old when she started working for the River Park Theatre in South Bend. “Growing up and learning how to be responsible. I also met my husband there.” 

The Rees is important to Saenz for the same reasons that River Park Theatre was important to her. “I didn’t grow up in Plymouth. I grew up in South Bend, but I know the stories that people have told me. Even when we moved here in 2005 we attended several movies in that theatre as a family. It was because we liked that small town feel, that small town heart, the little theatre small business owner feel. That’s what River Park Theatre was.”

“How many stories can you tell about the movies. How many families attended family movie nights? How many people met their life partners at the movies? When you just think about walking in to the movies and the smell of the popcorn.” Saenz reminisced, “I can remember before we starting using real butter, we had to call it butter flavored topping.” she laughed. She also said that coconut oil contributed to the nostalgic smell of vintage movie popcorn.

“It really kind of had to be love at first sight,” Sandy laughed about how she met her husband. Neither of them were typically that forward when introducing themselves to other people or meeting new acquaintances. “He came in to watch a weird 3-D Frankenstein off the wall movie.” Sandy has the original movie poster to this day. 

“He came in with a friend. They were buying some popcorn from the concession stand. They called me by name. Since I didn’t know them I was initially surprised, but I was wearing a name tag.” she laughed as she reminisced. 

They invited Sandy to watch the movie after she got off work. “He asked me for my phone number. For one, I don’t know you. I don’t do that. But I did.” she laughed again. “I went in, watched the movie and sat down right behind them.”

“He called me and asked me if I wanted to go out. Although I didn’t really know him, I wanted to go. But I didn’t want to tell my parents. My mom and dad ended up finding out about the whole story many years later. But I did tell my sisters. ‘I’m going out with this guy. This is where I am going to be.’ That night we went to the movies. I met his aunt and uncle. I met friends. It was one of those things where we just fit.” Sandy remembers the exact date, November 15, 1982.

Sandy and her husband got married in July 1986. “He says because he got me so young he was able to straighten me out like he needed to. (She laughed) I think we did that together.” 

Saenz grew up in South Bend, her husband grew up in Osceola. They spent the first part of their marriage in South Bend until they relocated to Marshall County in 2005. “We built a home outside of Argos. Our children went to Argos junior high and high school.”

Saenz referred to her shop as her ‘happy place’. The shop has provided Saenz with a place to grow as a daughter, wife, mother, and business owner for the past seven years. “This is now a different season of my life. I was a vendor, a partner and now it’s all me. But it has all been in this same space.” 

Saenz started her business creating custom gift baskets. “Martin’s Supermarket here in Plymouth was gracious enough to let me have a pop-up gift shop selling my gift baskets. That’s how I got my start in gifting.” 

Saenz was discovered there by a local shop owner who offered her a spot as a vendor at the shop she now owns. Saenz was working another full time as an office manager for a construction company until June 2018. “I would come in on Saturdays or cover for her when she took a vacation.” With kids in school and college, Saenz wasn’t ready to embrace her gifting passion and pursue it as a full time business venture at that time. 

Eventually Saenz and a friend of hers took over the shop together. Saenz included custom picture framing to expand her product features. Saenz started working at the shop full time in June 2018. “The last job I had was for Balfour Beatty Construction. I went in August of 2000. I started the job on-site at Memorial hospital. I was only supposed to be there for two years. Eighteen years later I got laid off. It was fine. It was always kind of the plan.” Saenz shared that timing was perfect. She was already established at her shop, her daughter was married and a mother, her son had graduated from college. 

It was in the Spring of 2019 that her partner made the decision to branch off on her own. Saenz re-opened the shop June 1, 2019 as the sole owner of Simplee Stated Gifts. 

Saenz offers personalized leather, wood, glass and slate goods. Saenz expanded her product line with the purchase of a new Laser Solution LS100 gravograph in the Spring. She debuted the machine on June 1. She still specializes in custom picture framing. She can customize books, dog tags, pens, signage and a number of other home decor and a variety of other personal items. 

The shop also holds a special place in Saenz’s heart where memories were made with her mother and father. “My mom loved to be in here and help me. She loved to help with sidewalk sales or simply spend time in the shop.” Displayed in the window of her shop is a chair embellished with a butterfly motif. Saenz, who herself is a local business owner, also supports local small businesses and organizations. She purchased the chair at the annual ‘Chair-ity’ event hosted by Heartland Artist Gallery. Her mother loved butterflies and her father was always telling her that she needed a chair in her shop for him to sit at. The chair is displayed lovingly as a tribute and memorial to the charity of heart that they instilled in her as a child. 

Saenz lost both of her parents at the end of 2016. “When I was losing my parents this is where I could come to be ‘okay’. I could come and I knew there would be happy people here to interact with.”

Saenz expressed heartfelt gratitude for the success she has experienced in life, love and her profession. “This is something that is on my heart that is truly a way to give back. Just to tell the community thank you for supporting me. This is my way of saying ‘you are welcome’, how can I help you?”

“I’m excited to start a ‘give back’ program where I feel I can truly give back. Many supporters of the Rees shop in here and they are dedicated customers. They support small business here. We need to support them back.” 

She is eager to support the Rees with her first ‘Give Back Days’ event. Saenz said that if everyone gave a little, they could provide a lot of help. “It may seem like my little bit is just a little bit. But if you get a little bit from me and a little bit from them and a little bit from them…then we have a ripple. Then we have a lot.” 

“I heard that unfortunately they did not get the grant that they were hoping for. So this is now coming maybe at a good time to help in some aspect. To help them continue. The Rees needs to continue. We need to finish it. We need to get it across the finish line. What it will do for our downtown and for our community will bring it back to life. It needs to continue.” 

“Movies have always just been a big part of our family. The four of us kids to this day still love to go to the movies.”

Simplee Stated Gifts is located at 100 W. Garro St., Plymouth.