Students Offer Thornes Marketplace a New Perspective

June 6, 2017

When the management of Northampton’s Thornes Marketplace wanted fresh, unedited perspectives on how people interact with the Thornes environment, they found them at Greenfield Community College. At GCC, students don’t just read about the principles of marketing, they put those principles to work advising real clients on business challenges they currently face.

Fifteen students in Tina Stevens’ Principles of Marketing course chose Thornes as their client. Stevens is an adjunct faculty member and the owner of Stevens 470 Marketing & Creative. The marketing students ranged in age from 16 to 60+ and while some had no business background, others own businesses. Students took concepts they learned in class and used them to solve the problem posed by their client. They conducted client research and marketing analysis and then developed creative strategies that included specific recommendations.

What did the Thornes team learn from the GCC students?

Thornes Marketing Manager Jody Doele explained, “We asked the students to suggest ways to encourage Thornes visitors to move throughout the entire building so they can experience everything that Thornes has to offer. They had to understand the Thornes visitor and then explore ways to alter their behavior. While we expected to gain an insight or two from the process, we didn’t anticipate the quality and abundance of feedback received. The experience wound up being a very illuminating and energizing one for our management team. The students dug into the data that was available to them and applied it to the process and structure Tina Stevens provided in order to create well thought-out and practical recommendations. I appreciated their sincerity and genuine commitment to the task at hand and the range and thoughtfulness of their recommendations. Their ideas incorporated new technology along with an understanding of what types of services today’s consumers expect.”

What did the GCC students learn from working with Thornes?

            Sierra Myers, 26, of Florence, studied Marketing at GCC and is transferring to Bay State College to study Marketing and Fashion Merchandising. Sierra said, “I learned how in-depth marketing really is. Marketing is an important foundation for anything we purchase and consume in our lives. If you own something, odds are marketing played a key role in your purchasing decision. This project took a great deal of effort to complete the many facets of thorough marketing research. This project also reinforced that working hard is important and that GCC is a stepping stone to much greater opportunities. My hard work paid off. After the presentation, I was offered a summer internship with Thornes Marketplace working on their social media marketing.”

Colby Dobias, 19, of Turners Falls, studies Business Administration at GCC and plans to transfer to the Umass Amherst Isenberg School of Management to major in Sports Management. Colby said, “The Thornes project made me aware that you cannot solve a problem by just changing up one marketing idea or adding just one new aspect. One reason our team did so well was that we came up with a theme and each of us added a specific marketing action that fit that theme. I also learned the amount of research that goes into marketing. We researched information that I originally thought would not be relevant but certainly was, especially in narrowing down each of our group member’s media outlets.”

 How does working with real clients enhance GCC’s curriculum?

            Tina explained, “Our marketing class was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Thornes owner Rich Madowitz and Thornes marketing manager Jody Doele. Rich Madowitz has a wealth of business knowledge and management experience. It was great to hear Rich tell the students he was impressed by their recommendations and because they had research and data to back up their ideas, it made their suggestions credible. That is an important concept we focus on in class, good marketing comes from research and analysis. Jody Doele has extensive business expertise and marketing knowledge. In addition to her role at Thornes, she is the president of the board of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce. Jody’s responses to student questions showed her thorough understanding of Thornes business objectives, marketing goals, and target audience. This demonstrated to the students that a professional marketing manager is fully informed about all aspects of their business. Jody was also very enthusiastic and open-minded about the student’s ideas and she let them know why.”

The Principles of Marketing class and the students’ work with real clients exemplifies how GCC’s Business & Information Technology department offers educational programs that provide current information and teach relevant skills students can put to use for an employer or in their own business.

Each semester the class works with a local business. Previous clients have included Josh Simpson Contemporary Glass, Hillside Organic Pizza,  Wings Over Amherst, The Greenfield Business Association, Amherst Brewing Company, Real Pickles, and The Bridal Barn.

To learn more about the project and Greenfield Community College’s Business courses, contact Tina Stevens at 413.775-1752 or or Kathy Vranos, Dean, BIT, Professional Studies, Social Sciences, 413-775.1471,

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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