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by Jenni Vincent

Martinsburg, WV – It’s quite possible that Freda Svoboda has never met a stranger.

That’s especially true when folks enter her cozy gift and craft shop, Freda’s Creations, the kind of inviting place where people stop to purchase a gift or perhaps just to share a cup of free coffee and chat.

But even her warm personality and unique inventory – everything from handcrafted jewelry and fragrant candles, to colorful nature photographs shot by her husband Charly and bridal designs – haven’t been enough lately, especially since the recession began to hit hard locally.

“I’ve been here four years and I love it. There is no place else I’d rather be,” Svoboda said with a smile, recalling how much work had gone into converting the former vacant garage at 2753 Williamsport Pike north of Martinsburg into a rustic retail shop.

“People from the community come in here all the time, just to have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. … I like that this is a place where folks can gather in the community, whether they buy anything or not,” she said.

She also likes contributing to local causes and helping refer customers – especially tourists who detour off Interstate 81 – to other small businesses in the area.

“Being a small business owner myself and struggling like I am, I now realize how very important it is to support other small businesses, even though I’ve always tried to do that anyhow,” she said. “Now, however, we all need to do that because it is vital.”

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