Small businesses provide unique offerings, strong customer service

Nicki Butler shops for Christmas gifts at Teal Boutique
Thursday afternoon.

Speaking during a brief lull in the midst of her business’s holiday open house Thursday afternoon, Teal Boutique co-owner Brittini Schuldt said the Hastings community has strongly supported the women’s clothing store since it opened in July.

“We have been busy ... very busy,” she said.
Customer Nicki Butler of rural Hastings, who was shopping for Christmas gifts at the north Hastings boutique Thursday, believes Hastings residents’ attitude toward shopping local has been more positive as of late.

“I think people are tending to shop local more these days,” she said. “Downtown has more businesses open. Lots of these specialized boutiques or different types of stores has helped people stay local.”

Teal Boutique is one of about 25 local stores participating in the Hastings Tribune’s advertising campaign branding Dec. 8 as Shop Local Saturday, encouraging area residents to shop in town.

Tom Hastings, president of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, said such events highlight the unique offerings of Hastings’ small businesses. Many of the community’s most unique stores are downtown.

“What makes these stores unique is that there’s so many of them located in just one small area — for example, our downtown — and they’re not the large, what you would consider chain stores,” Hastings said.

That includes Plum Nelly, 731 W. Second St., and ImagiKnit, 233 N. Lincoln Ave., both of which cater to fiber artists. Representatives from the two stores see their greatest attributes as providing services not available at big box stores.

Janey Nottage-Tacey, a fiber artist and Plum Nelly employee, said employees like herself provide guidance for any weaving project.

“We have quality yarns and things that people can’t get except if they were to buy them on the Internet, and (here) they don’t have to pay for shipping,” she said. “By coming in they get to see and feel the materials, which is real important when you’re trying to make something. Plus we can help them with their projects, and that’s not something you can do if you’re dealing with a cyber store.”

ImagiKnit owner Karla Rasmussen plays host to Monday night get-togethers she calls “sip and knits” where customers come and work on knitting projects.

It doesn’t even take a special event for crowds to gather at the store. She said during a Thursday afternoon telephone interview she had half a dozen people there sitting down and knitting at that time.

“There’s different things that we as small business owners can offer to our customers that sometimes the big box stores, chain stores aren’t able to or won’t,” she said.

Teal Boutique has a similar approach to business with its month of specials, which included cookies and cider and a 20 percent discount.

The Tribune’s Shop Local Saturday comes two weeks after the national Shop Local Saturday. The Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday was dubbed Small Business Saturday three years ago by American Express.

Judy Buhr, who co-owns Teal Boutique with Schuldt, said that was a busy day for the business, too — its second busiest since opening July 16.

“We had people come in and they said specifically they were in town to shop local and to shop small businesses,” she said. “We were pleased they stopped here.”

Jim Hill, president of Roger’s Inc., an appliance and electronics store at 1035 S. Burlington Ave., said customer service is one of a small business’ greatest strengths.

Customer service has been a priority for Roger’s since Hill’s father, Roger, opened the store in 1945.

“A lot of people realize the independent dealer … they know the product better than most,” he said. “They also know they’re going to take care of them.”

To read more, see Friday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>>

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