Let’s give our patronage to SMALL businesses locally and on the Internet
By Di Chapman
Come on. Let’s just do it.
I bet you know someone who has a small business whose heart and soul have created a way to sell products that’ll make somebody happy this season. Ladies, it’s time to get off your bootalicious behinds, and gentlemen, your manly keisters, and stop clicking on that mega retailer site.
Lest I sound like a Neanderthal’s girlfriend, I know that most of our local merchants do indeed have an Internet presence. If you can’t make it into their establishments because of COVID concerns, limited time, or mobility, become a patron of their sites and buy the goodies! The small guy and girl online have monstrous competition. They’ve got guts. Let’s shake their hands and give them our dollars.
Honestly, does Mr. Amazon really need our bucks?
So, giddy up on downtown. I dare you to ride or walk away empty-handed. Need a gift for a gourmand? Let your mouth water over awesome options. Need delectable’ s for desserts? I have fantasized about many choices. Wines and brews? Seriously? A new outfit? Ladies there are styles to try and fabrics to touch. Go! Buy!! Let’s share the local love!
Small businesses have always been the backbone of America. Call me old-fashioned but my family history is full of them.
In my case, the merchants were my Grandpa Chapman, my dad’s father; and my mother’s father Grandpa Skjerven. Both became merchants in Park River, North Dakota, a (really) small town supporting farmers close to Canada. Want to hear the wonderful Midwestern/Canadian brogue sometime? I can bring it.)
Both came from immigrant families, Grandpa Skjerven’s from Norway, and Grandpa Chapman’s off the boat from England. His father-in-law, a German, became an Auctioneer. No wonder I have such a big mouth. Grandpa Chapman began an insurance agency in North Dakota, and while maintaining that business, started The Outlaw (Seriously?) fine men’s clothing store on Main Street in 1933.
Grandpa Skjerven invented useful machinery and repaired literally anything brought to “Skjerven’s Garage.” He wore shop overalls and had the hands of a machinist. But the merchant in him also sold Chrysler and Dodge Cars. Guess who got her license in a Dodge Dart? My Auntie Ruth, an Icelander on Mom’s side who lived in Concrete, North Dakota, (God knows nobody on earth has heard of Concrete.) owned a small “staples” store in the tiny town.
I’ll be doggoned if Concrete, North Dakota didn’t become a Minuteman Missile silo site circa 1964, and Park River became surrounded by some of the150 armed underground missile silos installed in the state. What? Imagine if those babies had blasted off!
I have friends whose small businesses have been affected by COVID, ultra-large online retailers, and both. Every story is different, but they all dream of building something customer-focused and bringing happiness to others.
Take GottaSoul.com, a site started three years ago by Cheryl Colker Tracy and her family. It began as her husband’s idea. “Let’s start a business that sells women’s leggings!” Well, butter my grits. I like him.
Their business model was Internet plus Pop-up retail, and their merchandise grew beyond leggings. Cheryl added more fit wear, fashion, active and outer wear, and for Pop-ups, brought along a fitting room to gyms, church events, yoga studios and fairs. She quickly became a company fashion consultant.
Their business achieved 50% volume pop-up retail and 50% Internet. Cheryl’s favorite thing? Enjoying her customers.
But COVID has ravaged Pop-up businesses and Internet traffic has slowed. “We have a new normal. We don’t know what next year will bring… our next products and strategies. But we do know we’ll offer excellent one-on-one service, the kind the big guys really can’t duplicate.”
COVID has created new avenues of growth for some. Melissa McKinney is one. When shutdowns hit, this gym-based fitness pro decided that socially distanced outdoor classes were the perfect solution to teaching and training again. She started in March with clients on a tennis court and driveway, and now instructs additional outdoor clients with neighborhood classes. Ladies, we are the BEST at word of mouth! She has gone back into socially distanced classroom settings as well but is ready to expand her own personal training clients, COVID-consciously.
Mary Seffrin is another who offered a fashion stylist business that allowed her to work closely with clients. It, too, was a hybrid, both Internet and in person. “I enjoy the social interaction of working with women, helping them choose clothing and accessories they’ll love.” COVID again determined the fate of her business as it had to swiftly become solely Internet. “I couldn’t see myself as strictly an online service. I love in-person interaction and the feel of fabrics, jewelry, and handbags. For me, the customer interaction and clothing selection process led me to go to work in a traditional store location.”
Long before shopping was done sitting on our blessed assurances, it was exciting, strolling in and out of small business main street shops. I still like it that way, and it sounds like the goals of new merchants agree.
On GottaSoul I lusted over the spectacular leggings for fashion and/or workouts, most with serious tummy control. God bless them. The tops and jackets work out or go out. Add my favorite boots and mask (she’s got ‘em), and I’ll strut. If Cheryl’s husband said, “Let there be leggings,” there are millions of other men clanking their beer mugs to it this very moment.
And Melissa, it’s simple: SOS! My chicken wings are out of control! Quelle horror! (Artistic license, Francophiles!)
Mary, I trust you can show me the right sleeve for the coverup of the “chicken wing wave” when I see all my friends out shopping – right here, right in town.
With wishes for Blessings and Prosperity to you all this year!