It’s 3 O’clock: Do you know where your customers are?

I love to support local businesses.  If I can spend my money locally, then I make an effort to do so.  Unfortunately, many times I must spend out-of-town or at a chain simply because they are open for business.  Hopefully, you are a  successful business, and your customers are spending their time and money in your store.  However, if you’re often not open for business, your customers are frequenting another business that is, and you are losing money.

The great perk of owning your business is to be your own boss, and set your own hours.  However, we are always beholden to someone, and if you are a business owner, then your business relies on customers.  In turn, your customers rely on you to have a great product, friendly service, and availability.  While it is important to have a great product and friendly service, it means nothing if your wonderful smile and great product are not available to your beloved customers.

Just the other day, recovering from an outpatient surgery, I had a wicked craving for a particular product.  It was a weekday.  It was three  o’clock in the afternoon, and we luckily have two establishments that provide the product I was craving!  While I wasn’t feeling like driving myself, it was definitely worth any discomfort I was about to endure.  To my utter dismay, my favorite joint was closed.  Not to panic; we have another.  Unfortunately, I was to be disappointed again.  By that point, I was in desperation mode.  Now, I really shouldn’t have been driving very far, but I had gotten myself dressed, and made it to town.  I was not about to give up on my craving.  So, I did what unfortunately many others have to do…made the pilgrimage to the next town.  While I had many national chain choices, I love to support local businesses.  I was delighted to find that my third choice was local and indeed open for business, like always, six days a week. 

If you are a shop owner, take a moment to evaluate your business.  Who is your clientele? Is your clientele only retired or non-working customers?  If not, when can your working customers shop for your products?  Most with full-time jobs work 8-5 , 5 days a week.  Are you available to your customers after 5:00 or Saturdays when they are off of work?  Many in today’s workforce are lucky to get a 2-day weekend.  Does your particular business justify a 4-6 hour day or a 3 or 4 day weekend?  Can you truly sustain a profitable business on short days and long weekends off?  Are you reliable?  Do you have your hours posted and can they trust that you will be open when you say?  In tough economic times and the age of 24/7 access, can your business survive? 

I understand that business will soon slow down, and many shorten their hours after the holiday season.  Perfectly understandable.  However, we are not there yet, and with the holidays approaching, businesses need to get together and provide opportunities for their customers to shop for the upcoming Christmas season.  With everyone taking a second look at their business, and working together, a profitable season may be in our future, and I can happily keep it local.

Small Town Big Ideas

Steelville Arts Council’s  latest addition to Main Street is Gallery Zeke, named for the famous artist Zeke Estep.  A big idea sparked by a local artist Gary Ferd Sanders in the small town of Steelville.  Though Steelville is a modest town, the vision for the community is not.  With the help of dedicated locals, great dreams are realized.  The gallery was completed by many volunteers who not only donated materials, but their time and labor as well.  Not to be pigeon-holed as a camping and rafting community, Steelville is committed to developing an art community that rivals areas like the Central-West End, and the community is succeeding.  Gallery Zeke is an extension of Yadkin Creek Mercantile, a shop that supports local artists and their works.  At Gallery Zeke, exhibits will come to life and expose various art mediums to the public.  In addition, STARCO, the Steelville Arts Council, supports the visual arts by offering education and artists retreats.  Information can be found on their website

Carol Ann Yeary posed next to the portrait Zeke Estep painted of her and which is now hanging in Gallery Zeke.

Carol Ann Yeary posing next to her portrait at Gallery Zeke

Customers in Front; Business Owners in the Rear.

There are exciting things happening in Steelville.  Several new businesses have opened.  Main street is hopping.  We now have The Soda Fountain which serves ice cream and delicious lunches.  There is also the  Art and Joe  coffee shop; awesome!  Recently, the Steelville Arts Council opened a non-profit art gift shop called Yadkin Creek Mercantile.  In addition, we have an up and coming business, Locklear and Associates, the Health Department, lawyers offices, the Courthouse, the Licence office, antique and thrift stores…the list goes on and on. 

There is one problem.  Parking!  Unfortunately, parking on main street is limited, and businesses with prime real estate also deal with inadequate parking for their valued customers. Many a customer, myself included, has headed home without getting a latte or stopping to peruse through antique treasures, because there wasn’t a parking space available.  Any business owner would agree it’s the last thing they want to happen to their business; the loss of a sale. 

So, why are business owners taking up valuable parking space from customers?    Perhaps the business owner doesn’t like the inconvenience of walking around to open shop in the morning.  What about your customers?  Do they want to drive around the block several times in search of a parking space?  Do you want your customer to have to park and walk two or more blocks to grab a cup of coffee on a cold, rainy day?  Of course not! 

What is the solution in the face of so little parking space?  Look around.  Are you a business owner with extra parking behind your building?  Great!  Offer some space to a neighboring business owner who may not have it.   Perhaps the city needs to add more signage for the public parking space we do have so people who will be parked downtown for most of the day will have a place to go off the street.  Is there room for another parking lot?  The city, chamber, business owners, and members of the community need to come together to help make Steelville more attractive to future businesses and their customers.  If our growth continues, parking will become more problematic.  Downtown business will be better for everyone if more parking is available to customers. Yes, exciting things are happening in Steelville.  Several new business have opened their doors, and main street is hopping.  Let’s work together to improve parking in our community so commerce can continue to grow. 

Please post your comments.  What are your experiences with parking on main street?  Do you have any solutions?

Steelville Arts Council Supports Local Artists: Yadkin Creek Mercantile Now Open!

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, make an effort to visit the Yadkin Creek Mercantile 115 E. Main Street in downtown Steelville.  Thanks to the formation of the Steelville Arts Council and an army of dedicated volunteers, the mercantile is now open for business. There you will find a bevy of art created by local artists.  From beautiful pottery, paintings and quilts to smaller items like jewelry and cards, there is price point for everyone.  Think of Yadkin Creek for that special gift.  With Christmas just around the corner; what better gift than a beautiful piece of art by a local artist? Currently, we are open Friday-Sunday.  Stop by and check out the merchandise.  If you’re an art lover, Evans house exhibits art by featured artists.  Please mark the dates!

Upcoming Evans House exhibits:
Julie Balogh–Oct. 29
Jim Barksdale–Nov. 12 and 19

Yadkin Creek Mercantile: Open Friday-Sunday

For more information about becoming a member or volunteer in the Steelville Arts Council please visit STARCO’s website

An Old-Fashioned Experience

Saturday I visited The Soda Fountain, and what a delightful experience!  This quaint establishment may get passed by on a busy day, but you would be missing out!  On a hot, sunny day, the homemade Ruby’s ice cream was a rich creamy treat.  My favorite is chocolate. Live bluegrass music was a surprise bonus and an intimate and enjoyable experience.  This family is talented!   The service is friendly and will not disappoint.  Rumor has it that certain occupations and status may be privy to free ice cream.

Ah, to yesteryear….

The Soda Fountain

OK, the 1930’s soda fountain was way before my time.  Nevertheless, if you are looking for a taste of nostalgia, this is your place.  Check out The Soda Fountain on Facebook for menu postings.