“Do well by doing good.”
Ben Franklin’s historic quote shapes the Muncie Map Company’s mission, seeking projects and jobs that benefit the Muncie community. Andy Shears, owner of the Muncie Map Company, is a Muncie native and a Ball State alumnus, and always wanted to give back to the community after leaving his former career as a professor.
“I got tired of academia. I didn’t enjoy it at all,” Shears said. “So the question was, ‘What do I do next?’ The thing that kept coming up was moving back to Muncie and doing something completely different from academia. I like making maps, and I’m trained as a cartographer, and so making a map shop made sense.”
Shears founded the Muncie Map Company in 2017, which he started by selling maps out of the back of his car at the Muncie Makers Market. He opened the brick-and-mortar storefront at 111. E. Adams St. in 2018 and has been operating there ever since.
In addition to maps, the store also sells map artwork, globes and “Muncie-centric” goods, such as apparel, stickers, buttons and greeting cards. Shears said he wanted to add more of a “place-centric vibe” to the store because he believes Muncie has suffered his entire life.
“We’re the industrial Midwest. Our population peaked in 1980, and it’s been sinking since then,” Shears said. “We have very little civic pride or pride in our place, so we’ve tried to remedy that.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the Muncie Map Company created a website and accepts some orders online, but it hasn’t always been that way.
“Before the pandemic, we did a lot of markets and events, ” Shears said. “That was how we got our name in the community in the first place.”
When businesses moved solely online in 2020, Shears said he and his staff had to do everything “in a panic” and put together a website with options to pay online, which the company is still putting together and perfecting today.
The Muncie Map Company also does online advertising and promotions, including a tournament they ran several springs in a row, encouraging customers to choose from multiple designs to put on a shirt. Shears also said the company relies on its reputation in the community to help the business flourish and grow.
“We try to do good in the community and go with the Ben Franklin quote, ‘Do well by doing good,’” he said. “[Franklin] was focused on trying to do well for his community, and he said if you do well for your community, prosperity follows, and your community will take care of you in return.”
Jannell Summers, Muncie Map Company shop manager, said working at the company has helped her develop more pride in Muncie and the surrounding area.
“When I first started here, I was pretty down on Muncie,” she said. “But when you learn the history of the place, and you talk to the people day after day, it’s hard not to love it … This community has shown me that, when you just really try to do good work, your community will usually try to take care of you.”
Summers said she has been working for the Muncie Map Company since the beginning of the pandemic. She became interested in working for the company because it gave her an opportunity to learn more about Adobe Creative Suite. Since she started, she’s helped create the online order form process for the store.
Summers said her day starts by checking orders customers have placed. Then, she works to communicate with each of them and make sure she is designing the items they ordered in the way they want. Customers can come into the store, so she spends time with them and posts on the company’s social media platforms daily.
“All kinds of weird, wild projects and people walk through the door,” she said. “It can be a very normal day, and we can just take care of business, or a new project or person can walk through the door and anything can happen.”
Some days, the Muncie Map Company has the help of Emily Wallace, an intern and Ball State alumna. Like Shears, Wallace thought she would want to pursue a career in the education industry, but realized that wasn’t where her passion laid.
“After working at other small businesses downtown, I [worked at the Muncie Map Company] and was like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where I’m supposed to be,’” Wallace said.
Wallace said she loves working at the company because of the diverse groups of customers who place orders, whether it be Muncie locals or people from all over the world.
Neither Wallace nor Summers had a background in mapmaking before they began working at the Muncie Map Company, and both had to give themselves a “crash course” in geography because neither of them are trained cartographers. Even though they know more about the practice than before, the company still relies on Shears to create the maps.
“We have less to do with the maps and more to do with the retail, design and social media aspects of [the store],” Summers said. “We actually manufacture all of our buttons, all of our stickers and all of our magnets here in the shop with small mechanical devices.”
Shears said the orders for each customer depend on what they want, with some geared toward a wide audience, like their “Ultimate Muncie” map that has sold almost 600 copies. The store also accepts custom orders, such as maps of different properties in Muncie.
Wallace said she enjoys looking at the custom orders and seeing what people come up with, like one woman who saw an old railroad map of Muncie and got the idea to make a map linking where she was from and where her husband was from. Their wedding vows surrounded the path.
“It was so cute,” Wallace said. “Taking anything and making it more meaningful and including that sense of place, you get to learn more about the people in your community. It’s definitely made it my favorite part of working here.”
Shears believes the Muncie community needs to look more at the city’s past rather than its future and see where it has come from, especially when he remembers a time where he felt like no one wanted to admit to liking Muncie.
“Muncie needs more pride in itself,” he said. “What have I liked about [owning this business]? Meeting lots of people and helping lots of people, but also, helping people realize that if they’re proud of our city, they’re not alone.”
Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.