Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.
It is that one-on-one, face-to-face service and attention to all customer concerns that seems to separate specialty shop owners from big business.
At least that is the way Debbie Buck, owner of Audrey’s Custom Draperies in Charleroi and others in similar positions thinks.
“The service from a small business or specialty shop is personal,” Buck said. “When I sell something, I measure. I put it up. I’m hands-on and face-to-face. I know most all of my customers and many of them I consider friends. A lot of them would rather come in and deal with me one-on-one than deal with a big box store.
“These kinds of businesses are our hearts. People like to be cared for and we put our time in to make sure they are happy and satisfied.”
Audrey’s Custom Draperies has been in business for more than 35 years focusing on custom drapes, window treatments and custom bedding.
While some specialty businesses have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, Buck said Audrey’s is enjoying a good year. The business was shut down in March and re-opened in May.
“I believe a lot of people didn’t go on vacation and decided to spend that money on (improving) their home,” she said.
“The styles have changed. Before, there would be layers after layers. Now, it’s a simpler look. People have gotten away from the heavy looks and they are more concerned about sun control.”
Victoria Strawn is looking for some light to shine of her specialty business – Accents at The Quail, on Washington Road in Washington.
“COVID-19 has made a tremendous impact,” Strawn said. “It cut down the business a lot.”
Accents at The Quail, which features specialty items including, jewelry, infant and women’s clothing, wreaths, floral arrangements, pictures, some antiques and glassware and some furniture and cabinets, was closed in March and April.
“It’s a diamond in the rough,” Strawn said of the business. “We have convenient parking and holiday items are now available.”
She admits some days have been difficult.
“I appreciate my customers,” Strawn said. “There have been days we were open and not one person came in. I think people are worried and still intimidated to go out and about. The greatest challenges is just getting people back in the stores.
“The other day we had about 27 people in. Most were just looking. Some days only a couple people come in and it ends up being a good day. We have our good days and our bad.”
The Amish Touch in Washington was shut down for six weeks earlier this year.
Sandra Lea said the business suffered losses during that mid-March to mid-May shutdown as deli meats and cheeses had to be thrown out.
But a loyal customer base has helped to offset the losses over the past six months or so.
“We had to do more advertising than normal,” Lea said. “It took a while.”
The Amish Touch features deli meats and cheeses, jar goods and Amish furniture. Specifically, the heirloom Amish-made indoor furniture, outdoor furniture, home décor items, accessories and deli meats and cheeses are what makes the store successful and unique.
“All three (facets) are doing well,” Lea said.
The store’s deli receives shipments each Monday and owner Chris Potts travels to Ohio “routinely” to acquire Amish furniture and home décor, Lea added.
The store also features bird houses, gazebos, picnic tables, swings and poly furniture.
“We have products you don’t see elsewhere, especially the Amish furniture,” Lea said. “Where else will you find Amish rockers. People cam come here and know the product will last. We are grateful for our customer base.”
Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.