by Pammie Jimmar and Claire Aiello
Most of us are ready to close the book on 2020, but this year has brought an extra set of challenges for small business owners. Fewer customers in restaurants, less foot traffic for retailers, and many people just opting to shop online with a few taps or clicks – these factors have all affected our local merchants in a big way. It is critical that we support our community’s small businesses now, more than ever.
We profile eight local members below, asking them about their year, the struggles they’ve faced, and what they want you to know about the services they provide. These are their answers in their own words. You will see each of them featured in our December issue of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s Initiatives magazine. Please make a point to visit them in person or visit getyourgifton.org to purchase gift cards to these stores and many others. Also, here’s a list of our member retail stores in our Member Directory.
Jessa Harris, Owner
We’re a new business that opened up in the pandemic, which is a feat in itself. Before, it was easier to open a business and expect people to know you’re here. Now, you don’t have your traffic flow, your walk-ins. It’s harder to get the word out because people aren’t shopping like they used to. Online is fine, but we’re not your typical florist. We have a very European style shop, and I want Huntsville to experience it. We’re very community oriented and community friendly.
We do a ‘Fresh Flower Friday’ which is very European. Come and make your own bouquet. Small styles, flowers, from the growers. You can’t do that anywhere else in this area. We also host classes to teach people how to arrange flowers. You get to take home a beautiful arrangement, and you design it yourself! I show you how easy it is to do.
I am also huge on customer service. If you’ve got a request, I’m going to do everything possible to make that for you. If we can’t do it, we’ll find an alternative that’s just as beautiful for you, and we also do customization. When you work with us, I want you to walk away with a smile on your face, and to be happy you were here.
Candice Hayes, Owner
One huge adjustment for this year has been all of the changes due to COVID 19, and consistently maintaining a positive mindset, despite some of the negative things around you on a daily basis. I’ve truly had to get outside my comfort zone and think outside the box with creative material to reach potential customers.
When you are shopping with Candy’s Candles, know that we strive to use eco-friendly products, from packaging to the vessels, that are recyclable after the candle is completely used. We don’t use additives such as paraffin or dyes in our candles like most large retailers do, (ex; where you can purchase 4 candles for $20.) Our candles are 100% soy, nontoxic and ecofriendly, and are hand-poured in each vessel by the owner. That’s local to make it more personal.
We also include thank you cards in packaging and free small gift sample items to show appreciation. We also have a strong online presence on Facebook & Instagram to engage with our followers.
We have also partnered with some other small businesses in the community for various Pop Up Shops, and we also recently launched a luxury candle line. If you are looking for a more elegant vessel, be sure to visit candyscandlesboutique.com.
Owners Everett & Jerri Osborne
This year has included very unfair trade practice, forcing small businesses to close while keeping big box stores open. Treating small business owners like they don’t know what is happening and that they could not regulate consumer traffic in our own stores. I tell you this, we could have done a better job than the big box stores did, letting people run all over their stores with little to no guidance.
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is getting jewelry for our store. Over 75 percent of our jewelry manufacturers were closed for several months, and some are still closed.
In our business we deal with more jewelry manufacturers not suppliers, and a great deal of our jewelry is made to our specifications and quality and we have to place our stock orders six to nine months in advance. This is a very big edge we have over our competition. We also do a very large volume of custom jewelry for our clients.
We strive to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We contribute to a wide range of charities and civic organizations so you can trust that a part of every purchase goes to help those in need. When charities or civic groups need help, who do they call? They sure don’t call the online stores, they call the small independent stores for help.
We have a website and sell several items online. We promise value and service to our customers. We can and do match prices online and give better service to go with it.
Dawn Mueller, Owner
I have learned from being in business for 20 years, you must be willing to adjust your plan to stay in business and be successful. My biggest challenge has been marketing my business. Since there are fewer in-person networking opportunities right now because of COVID, building relationships is more difficult. People tend to do business with those they know, like, and trust, so I am relying more on email marketing, mailings, social media, word of mouth and my website.
The Perfect Gift specializes in custom gift baskets and gifts for corporate clients and individuals. We are Woman Owned and Operated and have been in business for 20 years. I am an award-winning designer and enjoy helping my clients appreciate their customers, employees and referral sources by designing a gift that represents their business and the sentiment they desire. Our gifts are packaged to order, which guarantees that your gift will be the freshest and best-tasting available. Our gifts are delivered or shipped just as they are presented, giving you confidence that the recipient is receiving the experience you desire.
One of the things we do to compete with larger stores and online stores is to customize our gifts by using corporate logos and products in our gifts, ensuring your gift represents your business. We offer an online presence making it easy for our clients to purchase as well as communicating via phone, text or email. This year, new for the holiday season, we are offering a line of “Made in the USA” products. Everything used in these gift baskets is sourced and Made in the USA. We custom-designed these gifts, making sure they are one of a kind. For more information, please visit dawnsperfectgift.com.
Mark Torstenson, Owner
Obviously, 2020 has been like no other year in our history! Initially, my fear was that the “safer at home” order would cause a significant downturn in business which it did, but only briefly. We immediately started a social media blitz advertising that we offered online purchases with curbside pickup and home delivery and things quickly returned to relatively normal sales volumes. We actually saw bigger than normal sales volume for April and May while so many people were confined to their homes. My biggest challenge at this point is being able to restock inventory. Many of my suppliers and manufacturers were shut down for several weeks and have had to implement safety measures that have slowed production. We are just now beginning to see stock return to quasi-normal levels but still have holes in some key sellers.
We’ve been serving the North Alabama area for over 40 years. We specialize in quality string instrument sales and service. We pride ourselves in offering top-level customer service by experienced sales people.
We stress our knowledge and experience that you can’t find online or in a “big box” store. We also offer service after the sale, often at no extra charge. We are also pushing our website that offers real-time inventory stock and competitive prices.
Kelly and Amy Falter, Owners
Southern Reclaimed Salvage Barn is a small woodworking shop located at our home in Toney. We employ retired and part-time craftsmen who depend on us to continue to have a pipeline of projects from our friends and neighbors. We build custom items, and our clients spend disposable income on high end finishes, doors, furniture, and décor items.
We had been fortunate in previous years to create items for local events, weddings, restaurants, and breweries. We depended on tourism clients like the US Space & Rocket Center and the CVB. With COVID, our event business plummeted. Our wedding business went away. We know what happened to the USSRC, restaurants, and disposable income.
Ironically, what did happen was that people needed doors for some of the open concept spaces, they needed larger kitchen tables, then needed shelves, and desks and since a lot of TV’s are over the fireplace, many of our neighbors are replacing mantles.
People are also doing a lot more personalized gift giving this year. Realtors are still selling a lot of homes in our area and we do a lot of closing gifts. Our business shifted and we have managed to keep the pipeline full.
We do no two projects alike. We do tons of small projects for community, neighbors, to larger projects for businesses, commercial developers, and churches. We do single quantities to multiple quantities. SRSB has several incredibly talented and seasoned master craftsmen, the latest in woodworking technology, a CNC and 50 W Laser Engraver. We have an engineer, a marketing guru and an award-winning Creative Director that will support you in the design of anything you can imagine. The SRSB website, reclaimedsalvagebarn.com, and social media sites are fresh and informative, and are especially helpful to our viewers. People in our community are motivated to buy local. We specialize in custom projects; those that are client driven creations.
Ashley and Tom Brown, Owners
The year started off with construction coming to an end and the goal of opening in March of 2020 being met, then to waking up one morning and seeing it all smashed by a global pandemic. It then gave us time to stop and reflect on exactly what our dream, direction, and vision was to be now. We took a step back to see the bigger picture, looked around and gathered information, and set a new goal. Then we refocused our energy on what we needed to overcome. The pandemic had been laid before us and the rest of our community and country, and it would be up to us to come up with a plan to deal with our new situation and put it into action.
Of all the biggest challenges we have had to face, we have not been alone in facing them. Every business owner has had to face and overcome all or part of the same thing. From finding employees to open or keep the doors open, to obtaining supplies from vendors which have not been stocked in warehouses for months, to wondering what was going to actually show up at our door after ordering it, to figuring out how to maintain any kind of consistency with any products. All while trying to figure out what could and could not be done with the ever-changing health directives and mandates coming down from the county, state, and federal levels. There was and still is not a manual to guide someone through opening a business during a pandemic.
We are a locally owned and operated restaurant committed to providing you, our guest, with the best premium food and casual atmosphere. From the freshest seafood to top of the line steaks, we bring you nothing less than the best customer experience, the freshest ingredients, the best cocktails, and locally brewed beer.
This holiday season, we are opening up our entire restaurant for you and your company to come and join us for a dining experience you are sure to love. We are now accepting reservations for your company party during lunch hours. You are able to reserve the entire restaurant, which not only allows you to have your holiday party, it also allows you to have one with enough space to meet all the local guidelines and be safe during your company’s holiday festivities.
Owners, Jason & Christa Butler
This year has been a roller coaster for sure, as it has been for a lot of people. In early March, we were all set up at an annual Antique show in Round Top, Texas, when everything was cancelled and we had to turn around and come home. Things looked pretty bleak early on as it did for many retailers, but we were able to remain open as a supporter of the building industry in town. It didn’t take long for business to pick back up as people began home projects and remodels during the early stages of the lockdown. It kept us busy and forced us to adapt to a much higher demand for the door and furniture customization sides of our business. Although it was a trying time for our country, we could not have been more humbled by being able to support so many new customers during that time.
There are so many businesses that have opened up in the last few years locally that bring something new and fresh to the table. Businesses that in their own way are uniquely Huntsville. We truly want people to feel like we are one of the staples of that ever-growing Huntsville business community and whether you are a new customer or a loyal fan, we want it to be a unique experience every time you visit.
Although we are in the early years of our business, we see tremendous potential for growth. We feel like the reclaimed and architectural salvage business is a hidden gem throughout our country, and one of our goals is to share the value of utilizing reclaimed and vintage items into the vast design landscape we see today. We love how our customers utilize our reclaimed doors in such amazing ways and we have a passion for coming up with unique furniture designs that are made from almost entirely reclaimed materials. Our website has become a great tool for customers to discover our products and we now ship our doors and furniture nationally. As we continue to grow, we hope for consumers to have confidence in our ability to provide a wide array of reclaimed and custom items for their home projects.