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J.L. Long Traders finds niche in community of innovators and creators

Sisters sought e-commerce advice at efactory.

The fabric of the Springfield community is rich with entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses of all sizes.

It’s also true of Kelle Rathe’s family, who now co-owns J.L. Long Traders.

When she and her sister Kaleen Long began dreaming of a store to showcase home goods created in Springfield and the region, they discovered their great, great-grandfather had once also owned a business on Commercial Street.

J.L. Long & Sons Furniture Company, which opened in 1903, later moved to Walnut Street, where J.L. Long Traders resides today.

J.L. Long & Sons historic photo.
Long family photo from early 1900s.
“I actually didn’t even know this part of our family history,” Rathe said.

She remembers hearing that many generations ago her family had operated a store in Springfield, but she had no idea that it survived for decades, and that her dad had memories of visiting the shop.

“I didn’t know that anyone in my lifetime had ever seen it.”

Kelle and Kaleen, who grew up enjoying downtown and activities like Springfield Little Theatre, gave a reverent nod to the newly discovered family legacy when naming their store.

“We love Springfield, and both knew we wanted to end up here,” Rathe said. “We opened up J.L. Long Traders so that we could take advantage of the locally produced products that we love, highlight the creators here and add something to the community we love as well.”

The store boasts many specialty home goods from brands like:

  1. Handsome Goat Soaps
  2. Good Skin Day
  3. Askinosie Chocolate
  4. Among many others.

“I like to claim that I was one of the first taste testers of Askinosie Chocolate because I actually tested it in Shawn Askinosie’s kitchen before they even opened up,” Rathe laughed.

Broadening the market

Kaleen Long and Kelle Rathe.
Photo by Tonya Forbes

Since both sisters had connections worldwide from their travels and stints living in other areas, they had an untapped audience eager to support their business when they opened in 2021.

“We obviously want community support and love foot traffic, but we also wanted to get these locally produced products out to a larger audience.”

That widespread market barraged Rathe with one not-so-simple question: Where’s your online store?

With it being a two-person venture at first, Rathe felt unprepared.

“It was twice the inventory, and we needed a lot of advice.”

Shipping, taxes and general overwhelm at the thought of expanding into e-commerce pushed Rathe into contacting efactory. Executive Director Rachel Anderson encouraged a meeting with Lance Coffman, a business consultant at efactory’s Missouri SBDC at MSU.

“He was able to walk me through how to make this transition from being an in-person store to online,” Rathe said, which included providing answers to questions about logistics and business skills she had less training on.

“It really did give us the confidence. Otherwise, we probably never would have taken that step,” she said. “I cannot stress enough how important efactory is for Springfield. People don’t have to have that fear and are able to strongly pursue their passions.”


Showcasing local artisans

Rathe said that though their interests are very different, she and her sister have a few deeply shared loves:

  1. Their family.
  2. Elaborate window displays in large metropolitan areas.
  3. Downtown Springfield.

The prime location they found for J.L. Long Traders capitalizes on their shared love for a window display.

“We have a nice window out front, and we like going to New York and seeing all the winter displays,” Rathe said. “We thought it would be fun if we had a storefront where we could do the holiday window display.”

As they moved around, they each spread the news about Springfield and the many corporate entities that had roots in the area.

Now, they share about the creators and artisans in our midst.

Exterior of J.L. Long Traders.

“I am just proud of all these things and being able to say it was made and developed here in Springfield,” Rathe said. “Downtown Springfield holds priceless value to us, and we are so proud to be part of the community. We tried to find a niche that wouldn’t compete with others directly because we really want all of us to thrive.”


Photos by Tonya Forbes