Shoppers supporting small businesses
How Impressive! owner Kristine Knutson will celebrate the business' 10th anniversary later this month. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:51AM
LIBERTYVILLE – The holiday shopping season was strong for local small businesses, but owners wish the support lasted all year.
Margaret Rosemeyer, owner of Eclectic Design Source, said that the holidays have been tremendous for her business, which is an interior design studio and a retail boutique.
Rosemeyer said she made it a point to thank customers profusely for stopping in. She said that people really seemed to have the mindset that it was important to shop at local businesses instead of large chains at the mall. But, there was a caveat.
“It would be nice if people could have that mindset throughout the year, not just at the holidays,” she said.
Rosemeyer said that more customers would benefit her bottom line and the shoppers. More buyers would mean better turnover of merchandise and newer products.
Still, Rosemeyer is glad that her three-year-old business is in Libertyville, where she said the community atmosphere is amazing and the chief reason she decided to locate there.
“We are very blessed and very fortunate to have the customers that we have,” she said.
Expressing a similar appreciation for her loyal patrons was Mari Loustaunau, co-owner of Cafe Pyrenees.
The family-owned and operated cafe has been in business for 22 years. Although there have been ups and downs, Loustaunau said the past three years have been the most difficult in their history.
An extra challenge, other than the sluggish economy, has been the ongoing construction at the intersection of routes 21 and 137. It has made it difficult for people to get to the businesses in the area and the pain is being felt.
To combat it all, Loustaunau said she works hard on marketing and special promotions. One example is a $22 four-course menu being offered to celebrate their 22 years in business.
And although revenues have slipped, the passion remains.
“We love what we do,” Loustaunau said. “It’s not work. We have staff who have been with us the entire 22 years. My children work in the business and they have learned so much from it.”
Loustaunau pointed out that Cafe Pyrenees’ commitment to the community had not waned despite these lean years.
“I met with our staff recently and said we can be proud that we’ve had the lowest revenues ever, but we have given the most ever too.”
Carol Levin, the Marketing and PR Director at the GMLV Chamber of Commerce, also underscored the generosity local businesses have to their communities.
Citing things like sponsorships of local events, donations to local charities and the like, Levin said small, independent business are indefatigable in their support.
“A lot of them never say no,” she said.
Levin said that despite the challenges independent, small businesses face, they are making it work with a focus on new types of marketing like social media, developing relationships with their customers and networking with fellow business owners.
Levin said the latter was especially key, because people do business with those that they know, like and trust.
Kristine Knutson, owner of How Impressive, would agree. Her business, now located in downtown Libertyville, was home-based for the fist three years and will celebrate its 10th anniversary Jan. 23.
The purveyor of stationery, personalized gifts and more said that getting out in the community was vital for her success.
“You have to go out and get the business. It won’t come to you,” Knutson said.
The community being Libertyville is a definite plus as far as she’s concerned.
“I wouldn’t want my store in any other town.”
Her goals for 2013 include creating more awareness around the importance of shopping local, even if that means shopping on a local merchant’s website.
“If people shop on my website, they will still be supporting a local business, and I don’t think they realize it’s an option,” she said.
Of course, she also hopes next year will be better than the last, a common refrain heard throughout the small business community.
Susan Edmondson, owner of Someone’s In the Kitchen, was singing it too. She was pleased with holiday sales, however, and said that December in general accounts for about 30 percent of yearly revenue.
The main challenges of running a small business, according to Edmondson, are trying to do everything well and not having the support of a corporate structure that a large business may enjoy.
“You’re everything,” she said. “You’re every department.”
Overall though, Edmondson said she couldn’t complain.
“My customers are wonderful,” she said.
Although customer loyalty is wonderful, small businesses are not on a level playing field, according to Paul Sigrist, who started an organization to help them called America United.
What began as a Facebook group will be a C-Corporation by the end of January. Sigrist said at least 90 percent of the profits will be donated to small businesses or used to promote the sponsors America United works with.
“There is no question that small businesses need, and deserve, as much support as we can afford them,” Sigrist said. “During the Great Recession, corporations were receiving bailouts, preferential tax treatment, redirected funds from state education funds for corporate tax incentives and were laying off hundreds of thousands of employees. Meanwhile, small businesses didn’t receive a dime.”
This and more is why Levin said that if small business owners want to succeed, they must have the right mix of product, price and marketing.
“They have to keep current with what’s happening and follow the trends,” she said.
Despite the difficulties many are having, Levin struck an optimistic note.
“Things have gotten better in the last six months,” she said. “There’s definitely a positive vibe happening.”