Courier Staff Writer
Small businesses say it’s hard to compete with large, chain stores, but their loyal customers keep coming back because of the relationship they’ve established with the business.
Small Business Saturday was established in 2010 by American Express in an attempt to steer shoppers toward brick and mortar businesses in their towns during the weekend of holiday shopping bookended by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Tony Yencsik, owner of Tony’s Flowers, said in the hour since he had opened the store Saturday morning, he already had 12 customers, which he said is unusual for a weekend.
“Yesterday [Friday] was light because people were still doing the big Black Friday stuff,” Yencsik said. “With Small Business Saturday, you never know what’s going to happen, but it’s been pretty steady.”
What could have helped drive shoppers to local businesses is more advertising for the event this year, Yencsik said.
“I’ve noticed more ads this year nationally than ever before,” he said. “It makes people stop and think that those small businesses do employ people, they are helping the community.”
Yencsik just moved his store to Church Street in August from East Second Street next to the Lucky Rooster Coffee House.
“I was here 29 years ago, so it’s nice to be back in this neighborhood,” he said. “This is just so busy because of the traffic flow. Downtown is hit or miss because you don’t have the continuity of businesses.”
Two doors down at Rhynas Jewelers, Judy Rhynas said the family business employs just three people: herself and Ken and Dave Rhynas.
“We have very good customer loyalty,” she said. “It’s difficult being a small business because you’re competing against these large box companies where they can buy large amounts to distribute to their stores.”
But at Rhynas Jewelers, every piece of jewelry in the store is hand-picked.
“And we greet most of our customers by name,” she said. “We know about their lives.”
Judy said she even keeps a wish card file with customers’ tastes and preferences, as well as a customer list of pieces they’ve purchased in the past to see if anything has been developed to add to the piece.
“So if a husband comes back in, we can find a complimentary piece to something his wife already owns,” she said.
Husbands are really fun to work with, since she said often they have to stop and think, “Are my wife’s ears pierced? Does she like white gold or yellow gold?”
In fact, on Christmas Eve, she said about 90 percent of her customers are men.
“We realize people want to go look, but they come back here and tell us they didn’t enjoy their experience,” she said of the large, chain stores. “I think they enjoy coming here because we’re laid-back but professional.”
Another difference is education. Judy is a certified gemologist and Ken and Dave are both registered jewelers.
“It’s not like we hired a clerk off the street who has no idea what they’re talking about,” she said. “If people have designs in mind, we can bring them to life.”