Everyone knows that being trendy is easy…but as a business matures and the world changes, how does one remain trendy?
This is the question that retailers ask as they look for ways to remain successful. Our region boasts a thriving local business and retail community including shops that have been around for years—remaining relevant and popular as the times continue to change.
Retail Focus Project:
- Focus on the strengths & needs of our region’s independent retailers.
- Promote events and resources to help these businesses thrive.
Who are some of our community’s amazing retailors?
Michael Korska, manager of Monadnock Imaging, prides himself in his ability and flexibility to serve anyone who walks through the door of his small storefront in Downtown Keene. Korska takes time with each customer to ensure they are neither making a purchase that is too much, nor too little for the task they are seeking to accomplish. This, he says, is good honest business, and is one of the reasons his shop, even with the decline of film and need for developing, is still booming…
With the transition from film to digital in the photography world, Korska made it a priority to stay on top of emerging trends. This includes Go Pro Cameras, artwork reproduction services and possibly, in the near future, a 3D printer. This being said, Korska still manages one of the few photo-printing labs that still uses a chemical process to develop photos. He says that this gives him the edge of higher quality and better image over box stores who use a standard photo printer. He says that unlike a large chain store he makes sure that he is not overselling or promoting an unnecessary product to a customer. Rather, knowing that his products are pricey, and an investment to most, Korska works with the customers to find the tool that will be most cost effective and beneficial to them. He likens this to a shoe salesman in the “good old days” that would know his customer and would take the time to sit down and find them the perfect shoe.
Korska is attentive to the downtown area’s economy and is confident that Monadnock Imaging will remain successful. “Its simple,” he says, “we are not the box store that will sell you what you don’t need, and we are not the struggling photography business that is desperate to get merchandise off the shelf. We rely on honesty, quality, and good customer service. Nothing can beat that.” [/toggle]
Ted McGreer, from Ted’s Shoe and Sport lives for the community he serves. Since opening in 1991 he has organized many 5k races and other charity events. He encourages his nine employees to not just build relationships with customers, but also with the community by volunteering and networking whenever possible. McGreer provides that old-fashioned customer service that makes one nostalgic for their childhood. When he or one of his employees sit down with a customer, they have two main priorities: helping people to be fit and healthy, and helping people medically, to pick shoes that accommodates their age, weight, past injuries and moving habits…[toggle title_open=”Read More About McGreer” title_closed=”Read More About McGreer” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”]Ted stays up to speed on “what’s hot” in the shoe world by attending trade shows and by remaining attentive to what he sees on people’s feet both in the region and out. Lately he has noticed a return to bright shoe color and maximal cushioned trainers such as the Hoka One One Line, or the Adidas Energy Boost.
As a businessman, McGreer is looking to stay savvy by adding wireless cash registers and iPads with questionnaires for the customers. This will not only allow him to stay on par with the tech trends, but also to better know and better serve his customers.
Of course, competing with box stores and online stores is a challenge. McGreer finds more and more that the very companies providing his merchandise to him are becoming increasingly competitive. This being said McGreer has the advantage of being able to react much faster to trends than the “big guys” who have to send a chain of commands up a line of managers before purchasing a new product. In contrast, Ted can order in a new product in just 48 hours and have it on the shelf in just a few days.
With a new look after a recent renovation, the coolest shoes on the block, and that good old-fashioned customer service, Ted foresees a continued thriving business.
Dean Eaton, owner of Your Kitchen Store was born and raised in the region and recognizes the area as the perfect place for a business. Eaton saw an upward trend for the Buy Local movement in the community long before it was popular elsewhere. He says that people of this community are conscientious about where they are putting their dollars and are supportive of their friends’ and neighbors’ businesses…“We have a positive and helpful atmosphere from the moment you walk into the store,” Eaton says. This seems to carry outside of his store as well as he looks to give back to his community by displaying local charities in his storefront window and by providing a meal to the local shelter each month. His employees are cheerful and speak to the work-family and comfortable culture that Eaton has supported. They rely every day on one another’s diverse knowledge base and varying
“We have a positive and helpful atmosphere from the moment you walk into the store,” Eaton says. This seems to carry outside of his store as well as he looks to give back to his community by displaying local charities in his storefront window and by providing a meal to the local shelter each month. His employees are cheerful and speak to the work-family and comfortable culture that Eaton has supported. They rely every day on one another’s diverse knowledge base and varying skillsets.
With the challenge of online retailers and big box stores, Eaton knows that he needs to provide something extra special in order to be the go to place for kitchen-ware. He stresses the importance of advertising on social media and news platforms but also the importance of the physical aesthetics of the store when an individual walks or drives by the storefront or when a customer first steps into the store. The store is carefully laid out in an organized and neat fashion, but also reveals an eclectic array of color and funky appliances. Eaton sets a bowl with water out front for passing puppies to add that hometown, welcoming feel. “We want everyone to come in! Even the dogs,” he adds.
In this community that Eaton has called home since day one, his business has thrived as the main venue for kitchen supplies since 1992. With a mind on the wellbeing of the community around him and an ear to the ground for the latest and greatest blenders, mixing bowls, and onion preservers, Eaton is positive about any challenges that may lie ahead for Your Kitchen Store.
Denise Meadows, manager of the Hannah Grimes Marketplace, founded in 1997, says that while living in an isolated corner of the state is a double-edged sword, it has filled this community with a spirit of collaboration, resourcefulness, and mindfulness. Meadows has found similarities between Old Fashioned Yankee Ingenuity and new age trends of buying local and the Do It Yourself (DIY) state of mind and looks to showcase these concepts in the products that she brings into the store…Hannah Grimes’ products are all made within one hundred and fifty mile radius and have been juried in. Meadows often works with merchants on pricing quality and packaging and sends individuals with questions on their business practice to the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship down the street. The goal is to support local business and keep dollars circulating within our local economy as a way of making it more sustainable.
Hannah Grimes’ products are all made within one hundred and fifty mile radius and have been juried in. Meadows often works with merchants on pricing quality and packaging and sends individuals with questions on their business practice to the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship down the street. The goal is to support local business and keep dollars circulating within our local economy as a way of making it more sustainable.
In the store, Meadows has created an atmosphere for staff that is nurturing, supportive and positive. For her, employees come first, she believes that the good customer service and overall prosperity of the store will follow.
As a manager, Denise maintains that strong leadership and constant innovation are important to give vision to any business. With connections and past experiences with other businesses she has started and run in this region Denise has been a strong hand in making Hannah Grimes a beautifully simplistic yet elegant and popular place to shop on Main St.
As downtown business owners in this region feel the threat of isolation, they look more and more to collaborate with one another in order to keep Keene a blossoming and resource-rich town. As any New England Yankee knows, the power of collaboration, group brainstorming and communal support is a must have for survival and success.
From basement hobby to Main Street business, Tim Pipp, owner of Beeze Tees has walked what could be seen as a rare path for most young people. At a time when individuals his age often seek a traditional job, Tim has found success in setting down roots in Keene and creating his own work. Since 2010, his screen-printing business, Beeze Tees, has grown exponentially and is continuing in leaps and bounds!…
Tim Pipp, a Keene State grad, began his business while in college when he volunteered to make t-shirts for his track team. After this first job, Tim began to make a name for himself locally and soon was working day and night to crank out tee-shirts using a handmade screen and inexpensive paint. After graduation, Tim began to think about building a “real business.” He had moved around a lot as a kid and with this experience felt that Keene was just the right place to stay. “I thought long and hard about location, mulling through my previous experiences and my future goals,” Tim told me, “Keene is different. Here there is a desire for collaboration, people know each other, and if something goes wrong, people are there to pick you up. As a business-person, you are never isolated in Keene.” Later Tim added that Keene is also one of the few places he would feel good about raising a family. “It’s small, but not too small, and everyone knows everyone.”
Tim began by building a network of support in Keene including Keene State friends and teachers, mentors from the Hannah Grimes Center and individuals from other business networks. He felt this region offered a strong business community that was growing stronger by the year.
In the early days, Tim was a two-man show. “Everything was moving at a fast pace,” he remembers, “there was absolutely no time to slow down and make changes.” Now, with a hired staff of seven, Tim has more time to plan and strategize on how to remain on the cutting edge by continually doing things faster, better, and cheaper. Recently, Beeze Tees made a significant change to his business model by moving to a space on Main Street in Keene. Tim acknowledges this means more risk, but that it was a calculated and necessary risk in order to remain competitive in his industry. “Our new location is easy to find and comes with many important benefits.” He says smiling as he points excitedly to a refrigerator and bathroom, “including a bigger fridge and a bathroom that isn’t in a different part of the building!”
To stay competitive with other screen printers in the area, Tim believes it’s important to show that Beeze Tees “does it different.” Beeze Tees uses all eco-friendly, soy-based chemicals in the making of their individually hand made t-shirts and offers competitive pricing and deals. Additionally, Beeze Tees prides itself for its flexibility: the company works with customers to offer them the best options for their money—and if money is an issue, works creatively to get them what they need. Tim is a selfless leader, looking to give back to the community. He works to create an atmosphere that is enjoyable for both customer and employee. “I want my employees to come to work and feel like they can be creative and innovative. Most importantly,” he adds, “I don’t want to be an absent owner.” Tim tells me that just before this interview he had been on the floor embroidering t-shirts. Tim values fairness and a strong work ethic and instills this in his employees, leading by example.
When it comes to fashion, Tim admits to not always being personally “a la mode.” But, as a tee-shirt designer, people come to him for advice on the latest style, which means perpetual research. Tim is constantly in contact with customers, suppliers, and experts at trade shows in order to stay up to date. A trend Beeze Tees has noticed, along with the reappearance of the quarter zip fleece and crewneck fad, is that as the economy has picked up, the desire for quality has returned. Customers are once again asking about the material, where it came from and environmental impact. People have more money in their pockets and are willing to spend a little extra to ensure good quality. This trend is drastically different from the mindset when Beeze Tees began in the heart of the recession.
Tim plans to stay in the Monadnock Region where he feels that there is endless community support, networking opportunity, and creativity. He enjoys being a part of a thriving local culture that shows a diversity of both people and businesses.
Walk into Beeze Tees on 116 Main St. in Keene and find a thriving and hip business as well as a team of community-minded, customer-oriented individuals with an eye toward giving back to the community.