December 1, 2013

Small but mightly: Business owners, shoppers recognize local outlets

Business owners, shoppers observe Small Business Saturday

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — With Black Friday and Cyber Monday representing how much bigger commerce is getting, local shoppers and business owners were reminded Saturday of the customer service and community stewardship small, local stores provide.

“Small Business Saturday” was started by American Express in 2010 to promote small, local businesses. Temperatures reached into the 40s by the afternoon, complementing what the staff of Judy’s GoodLife Emporium in downtown Logansport said was starting out to be a good weekend of shopping.

“You don’t get big businesses without small businesses,” said Judy Masters, owner of the store, which sells alternative and holistic health products.

Some continue to grow while others stop where they’re comfortable, she continued. After 15 years, Judy’s GoodLife Emporium has grown to the comfort level of two employees — Diana Brown and Sue Davidson.

“We are where we want to be,” Masters said, adding that a big part of businesses’ comfort levels has to do with the comfort level of their customers. “Some people don’t want to fight the big box. Everyone needs some level of quaintness.”

Brandon Busch, a Logansport resident, is one such customer.

“She knows what she’s talking about,” he said as Brown rang up his order at the cash register Saturday afternoon. “She takes her time, listens and doesn’t try to sell me a bunch of stuff I don’t need.”

Pam Peters, a regular at the store, said what small, local businesses like Judy’s GoodLife Emporium lack in space, staff and product, they more than make up for in customer service.

“Customer service is kind of becoming extinct,” she said. “In big stores, you’re lucky if you see a service person.”

Over on the east side of Logansport, Jerry Arnold said his business, Arnold’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, was experiencing a “fantastic day” in the outset of the holiday shopping season, describing a busy Saturday morning that lasted into the afternoon.

Along with the location that moved to the strip mall off of Lexington Road from the Logansport Mall in 2011, Arnold also owns a store in Rochester.

With small businesses like his paying taxes, buying real estate and employing residents in a community, it allows more money to stay within the community, Arnold said.

Dena Packard, who has been shopping at Arnold’s for more than 15 years, said she likes the local stores in Logansport because they provide a convenient place to stop after work before heading home to Grass Creek.

“I really like his jewelry,” she said while browsing some earrings Saturday afternoon. “He always has something new and interesting.”

At Bickel’s Bike Shop in downtown Logansport, Gene Lewellen, the owner, talked tires, suspensions and returning trends with two customers Saturday afternoon as he motioned toward the rows of Schwinn bicycles lining the sales floor.

Bickel’s has been in Logansport since 1949. Lewellen, who turns 71 this month, started working there as a sophomore in high school. While the bike industry has grown to the point where the Schwinn bikes he sells are no longer made in the U.S., selling and repairing them in what he calls his “old school” shop downtown allows him to establish relationships with customers that keep them coming back for generations.

“Their kids had kids and on down the line,” he said of his repeat patrons. “People will always come back to where the service is good. I don’t have any unhappy customers, because they know when they come here, they’re going to get good service.”

Melanie Marocco and her son Zac were doing some Christmas shopping downtown when they stopped into Bickel’s Saturday afternoon.

Melanie Marocco said she always tries to support local businesses as much as she can, describing it as an investment in the community.

“It’s the small people who made this country,” she said. “I hate to see them run over by big businesses. If I’m going to live here, I’m going to support them.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK