For anniversary businesses, service is key to longevity
Location is key to any successful business, but it’s only one of the reasons so many downtown shops manage to stay open year after year.
To prosper on Main Street, a business must fill a niche, provide good service and cultivate loyalty, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Harry Weiss said.
“You cannot put a price on customer service,” Weiss said. “Customer service is one of the things that’s a hallmark of downtown. It’s the social interaction that’s part of the retail experience.”
Shoppers choose downtown because they think, “This is my home. This is my downtown. This is my community. And this is the person who knows what I like and ... what I’m looking for,” Weiss said.
“It’s like you’re walking into your best friend’s living room and he’s sharing something cool with you,” he said.
Benges Shoe Store, 514 Main St., may be instructive. Founded in 1911, the retailer marks 102 years this month with two weeks of discount sales and prizes for loyal shoppers, third-generation owner Bruce Benges said.
“We just try to take care of people like you’d want to be taken care of,” Benges said. “We treat people with respect. We try to approach it in an honest manner and take care of their needs. We try to get the right shoes on their feet and if we don’t have them, we’ll send them someplace else. It’s more about taking care of folks than it is about the dollar sometimes.”
Anil Luitel, co-owner of Nepal Restaurant, 356 Main St., marks 14 years in business in Grand Junction this month, seven years on Main Street.
He started the restaurant with his wife, Sarita, after coming to the United States from Katmandu, Nepal. In his native country, he owned and operated a gas station, a tire shop and a factory, but learned the restaurant business after immigrating.
Customer service is of prime importance, he said, but serving a quick, delicious meal for the lunchtime crowd is the niche his restaurant fills.
“People can eat their lunch within 10 or 15 minutes,” Luitel said. “The staff turnover is zero, so people know (the staff) very well and they feel comfortable.”
Cheryl Lucas, owner of Crystal Books and Gifts, which celebrates 26 years in business Oct. 11, explains her shop’s longevity this way:
“I think it’s because of the personal service. I think that the people who come in become friends. I think we give all people respect. There’s no judgment on belief systems. To us, the store is a living, breathing thing. It has its own energy. You come in here and you feel good. It’s open. It’s wide. It’s comfortable. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Everyone feels safe.”
Lucas urged people with pre-conceived notions about her store to visit and make up their own minds.
“We honor everybody. Most of the store is not metaphysical. It’s self-help and it’s healing,” Lucas said. “We try to make everyone feel comfortable and honor them.”
She also honors her competitors.
“I will not carry something if another store carries it,” Lucas said. “You have to play fair.”