In the urban neighborhood known as Brookside in Kansas City, Missouri, small businesses abound. And flourish. In Brookside, shopping local is very much a way of life. There are a unique collection of stores and services, the owners often live within walking distance, and are all very vested in the community.
For ShopGirls, Brookside Toy & Science and Stuff it’s too early to tell much, but this holiday season feels good. Solid. And it makes them hopeful. Two of the three shared that 2010 had been their toughest year of the last three, but still, the signs are good.
They feel as if things are turning around and they’re less fearful of what’s to come than in previous years.
Aimee Green and Katy Hamilton, Mary Jo and Jim Ward, and Sloane and Casey Simmons all emphatically agree on one important point—what they sell isn’t about the stuff, it’s about the people. “Our customers know they could get something less unique somewhere else, and pay a few dollars less in the process,” says Mary Jo Ward of Brookside Toy & Science, “but they don’t want that. They want meaningful. And they want quality.”
These are retailers who don’t give a moment’s thought to competing with big box stores. Instead, all are laser focused on the things that make shopping with them different. Their collective calling cards are stores filled with unique, well-made and often one-of-a-kind items. They are staffed by knowledgeable experts who love what they do and it shows, and service that includes little extras like free gift-wrapping and personal attention.
Casey Simmons of Stuff might well have hit it on the head when she said, “We don’t compete with big box retailers, but we do compete. Because of the Internet, we compete on a global basis. Everyone is our competition. So, for us, it’s about the people. Funny, when you have a store named ‘Stuff’ that it’s not really about stuff. It’s about people, creating an experience and making the people a part of the business. That’s why we’re successful. It’s all about the people.”
That’s the magic of small businesses – it’s all about the people.
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