2017 Southside Times Person of the Year: Jim Coffman

Jim Coffman volunteers his time to improve and revitalize the City of Beech Grove

Jim Coffman. *Photo by Brian Ruckle, September 2017.

James “Jim” Coffman is always willing to step in and help if that task is something that benefits Beech Grove businesses, residents and the overall community. Along with running his own business, he has taken initiative to serve as an active member of the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce, Beautify Beech Grove and Next Stop, Beech Grove.

Jim Coffman has been selected as The Southside Times 2017 Person of the Year for his numerous community contributions which extend beyond his own business in an effort to improve the city of Beech Grove in its entirety.

“Jim is a Southside business owner, vice president of the Beech Grove Chamber, (last year’s president), he is a founding member of Beautify Beech Grove, a local nonprofit agency which raises money for beautification projects in the city, and also a founding member of the Next Stop Beech Grove organization which he currently serves as treasurer,” wrote Julie Lockwood in an email to nominate Coffman for the Person of the Year. “Jim can always be counted on to assist in making the city a better place to live.”

Coffman was born and raised in Beech Grove, the eighth of ten siblings. He had went to Indiana University for college, then returned to his Beech Grove hometown.

“We loved it here growing up,” said Coffman’s sister, Mary. “He wants people to see how great it used to be and get it back to where it used to be, the small town feeling. It’s a good area to raise his kids. He loves Beech Grove, wants to stay here, make things better for Beech Grove and get more people to realize its greatness.”

Coffman purchased Eckstein Shoe Store and Repair in 2011, a 90-year old small business that was nearing its end. With no background in the shoe business, he had to learn quickly. Since then he has worked to grow not only his business, but all of those around it.

“He’s a true leader for the community because he’s not about himself,” said Liz Lamping, Beech Grove City Councilor and member of the Beech Grove chamber and Beautify Beech Grove. “Jim’s the kind of guy that will do so much stuff for our community in every avenue of progress that is going on but he never boasts about himself. He’s humble. He’s a leader for the community and people respect and have faith in his ability. He has brought unity to that downtown business district. It’s not just about his business doing well. He looks to each side of his business to see how his neighbors are doing. He really cares about building the entire city up.”

He started by joining the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce. That transitioned into him serving as its president and currently, vice president. He will serve another term as president beginning in January.

He serves on Beautify Beech Grove, fundraising for projects such as decorating Main Street for each season.

From left, Kris Henthorn, Angel Calvert McKenna and Jim Coffman, leaders of Next Stop, Beech Grove. *Submitted photo.

Through his business, Eckstein Shoe Store, he sponsors a Centennial Award, recognizing those who impact Beech Grove City Schools.

Next Stop, Beech Grove, formed in 2016 with a goal of becoming an Indiana Main Street Organization through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). Coffman serves as treasurer for that organization. In November, Next Stop held a public information meeting, discussing the $40,000 grant awarded from OCRA to study what Beech Grove is lacking, what it does well and what can be improved. The next goal is to apply for a facade grant to improve the look of Beech Grove Main Street.

“Everybody is busy, and service organizations as a whole have a hard time getting people in, involved, getting things done,” said Chris Henthorn, owner of Henthorn Agency Inc. and president of Next Stop. “Sometimes you can find volunteers that’ll volunteer time for one organization, but he volunteers for several. He definitely devotes the time and effort and does a great job at that.”

When he’s not at work, volunteering for a nonprofit or committee, Coffman can be found spending time with his family. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one daughter with another on the way.

From left, Jim, Claire and Jennifer Coffman. *Submitted photo

“He’s a family guy,” Mary said. “He would do anything for them. His hobbies are really hanging out with (his daughter), doing what she wants and focusing on her, and his wife, too. That’s about what he does. He works, is on a committee, is going to city hall meetings or spending time with his family. He’s a very busy guy. He realizes that what he’s doing will have an impact and will help with things. He just keeps seeing the results versus the stress of it all.”

Personally, Mary describes her brother as very kind, caring and forthright.

“He’s a very determined person,” she said. “He’s a lot like my father, determined to do well and build on whatever he has to make it bigger, whether that be his business, his family, his relationships. He’s just a good guy. A lot of that goes towards our raising, because our parents are pretty amazing, too.”

With the work ongoing, it’s not likely Coffman will stop his volunteer efforts anytime soon.

“Someone his age, the fact that he has a young, growing family, and he takes the time out to do what he does, that’s amazing,” Lamping said. “I look forward to his work and progress on Next Stop, Beech Grove. He is unifying that downtown district and really sees the good in it. He uses what worked in the past, embraces what works in the present and looks ahead to find out what will work in the future.”

In what way have you witnessed Jim Coffman have an impact the Beech Grove/greater Southside community?

Since becoming a business owner, Jim has jumped in full stop as a proud member of Main Street Beech Grove. Eckstein Shoes has flourished under his leadership. He’s always promoting our city and making it better. As a member of the Beautify Beech Grove committee, Jim makes sure the Christmas tree is up at the roundabout, and the wreathes and flags are hung during the appropriate seasons. He supports Shop Small each Thanksgiving season and has served as the president of the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce. His customers and friends can always expect a bright smile and a knowledgeable answer to their inquiries about shoes, shoe repair or almost anything else. I can’t think of a better person to be selected as the Southside Person of the Year.  Congratulations, Jim!

– Sr. Mary Luke Jones

Jim has a deep connection and love for Beech Grove and the Southside. As a lifelong resident, he’s seen changes in the community and has a heartfelt desire to make a positive impact. His involvement in the Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce, BG City Schools, Beautify Beech Grove and formation of Next Stop Beech Grove are evidence of his commitment to the community… Jim is a hard-working and dedicated person, who wants to see everyone around him succeed, and he will do his part to ensure the best possible effort has been put forth to accomplish the set goals. He has a desire to see the community build and improve. He has a positive attitude about Beech Grove and the Southside and a vision for its future.

– Laura Barnard, former Beech Grove chamber executive director

Jim has made every person/business owner he has come in contact with feel welcome. He gives of his time to help make the community a better place… He truly believes that the community can improve, and he is not afraid to go out and do the work that needs to be done to make that happen.

-Dawn Whalen, Whalen Realty Group

He’ll take the lead in a program, just like the chamber of commerce. He’s now going to be president with his second child on the way. Beautify Beech Grove, he’s always there for us. He assists in the fundraising. He’s always promoting on the social networking, this business, that business. He’s always there to acknowledge that someone else does something good. Then in his business, his store does service for people that need his service. He doesn’t price people out to where they can’t afford to come back. If he sees that a customer needs something for the wellbeing of their health, he will manage a way to help them get that. When you walk into a store and customers are in there, people are happy. He has that hometown, it’s all about us working together, type of attitude.

– Liz Lamping, Beech Grove city councilor