Jennifer Barnett’s family history is rooted deeply in New Castle. She and her husband Kevin both graduated from New Castle High School, just like her parents and grandparents. While attending Purdue University, Jennifer had the opportunity to study fashion in New York City during her junior year. Living in a big city as a fashion designer was her original dream, but that dream later transformed into another dream: owning her own business in downtown New Castle.
“I remember touring the Jennings building with my grandma when I was about 22, and I remember her stories of New Castle’s vibrant retail spaces filling the downtown,” Jennifer shared.
She put her dreams of owning a shop in New Castle on hold while she built a 12-year career with the department store chain H & M. She worked her way up in the company, serving as a visual designer and helping to open 25 stores. However, she knew she wanted more for her career.
“I was tired of creating someone else’s vision,” she said. “I wanted something different, something that I could call my own.”
Jennifer started creating designer cookies and planning events as a “side hustle,” and soon she needed to eliminate her two-hour daily commute to grow the business. She took a job at the local Maurices store, which provided her an ideal transition from her retail career to a more local mindset. It wasn’t long before The Barnett Co became her primary focus, and she located a space in downtown New Castle to house it. Jennifer decided to locate her business in New Castle because of her love for the community.
“It’s where I grew up, it’s where my roots are. I love the small-town feel,” she expressed. “When I go places, I’m going to run into people. I see the area’s potential… what it’s becoming. People want to be here and watch it grow.”
A cookie case welcomes guests to The Barnett Co on 14th Street just south of Broad Street, but beyond the counter is a gift shop filled with trendy gift items for special and everyday occasions. The cookies and gift shop are popular for stop-in customers, but both segments cater to The Barnett Co’s specialty of event planning.
The business is a family endeavor. Jennifer’s husband, Kevin, plans events alongside her. Jennifer’s mom and mother-in-law are in the shop weekly helping with various tasks from decorating to cleaning. She has plans to continue to grow her business, especially related to the event planning side.
She has this piece of advice for anyone who’s thinking about relocating back to Henry County: “Come back with an open mind. Be part of our growth and solutions.”