Support Small Business Saturday, 11/27/2010

Support Small Business Saturday-11/27/2010

Support Small Business Saturday-11/27/2010

Thanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27.

They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

My favorite local business, Artisans Gallery of Gaithersburg, MD, could hold its own in the most cosmopolitan of settings- but it’s manna from heaven here in the Burbs.

Whether I need a gift for a baby shower, the perfect toy for a kid’s birthday party, or a waterproof backpack for the Oscars, Artisan’s Gallery is my first stop. The potpourri of delectable goods never ceases to amaze me, and I know every time I walk through the door, I’m likely to find a treasure.

A few of my favorite things that I bought at Artisans:
A necklace, where each stone was gathered by a woman on a trip for beauty the world over.

My red Vera Bradley Backpack, that I wore to my first Oscars trip, for Kodak’s Red Carpet Bleacher event. It poured rain, but I knew all my peripherals were safe and accounted for.

There are toys, leash holders, (for our new puppy, Mr. Gustav- like any leash will hold him!) stationery goods galore, and bins (glorious bins!) by my favorite Scout Bungalow Co.

And, not only is Artisan’s a cornucopia of goodies, it’s a family owned and operated business.

Run by the Armstrong Family, it employs Mom and Dad, and their son and daughter.

I asked Mrs. Armstrong what prompted her to launch the business, back in the early nineties.

“I was a housewife and mother for a long, long time, and I enjoyed quilting. I had done craft shows, and someone asked me to be a part of her store. She rented out space to different crafters, and when her lease ran out, I took it over. That was in Virginia, and that was my learning ground.”

She laughs wryly and says, “With that experience, I learned what not to do, and started this store closer to home in 1994.”

It’s certainly taken root in Montgomery County, MD, where many of the businesses these days are big box stores and chains.

Whenever I’m searching for something unique (or if I just need that quick hit of touching pretty things that break, therefore may not enter my home till my kids hit college) I head over there. And it’s always full of women. There is a notable dearth of men besides Mr. Armstrong and his son, UNLESS there’s a hubs in there shopping for a present for his Lady. But the business doesn’t seem to be suffering from the lack of dudes, who are not usually the biggest Vera Bradley consumers. (Artisan’s carries a HUGE selection of Vera.)

Mrs. Armstrong notes, “I started this business with money that my mom left to me when she passed away. She always said that if she had been born later, she would have worked outside the home. She was a highly intelligent and involved lady.“

I ask if her mother would be proud of what her daughter has built.

“Absolutely,” she says, and I hear the smile in her voice. “She would love it.”

As the business grew, it went from being Mrs. Armstrong’s thing to one that employed her husband as well- now her son Ben, and daughter Heather also work at the store, helping to grow the marketing efforts and manage operations. . The two other Armstrong kids have done stints at various times over the summer. It’s a team effort in every sense of the word.

I ask Ben what’s been the most effective tool in their arsenal of marketing a small, local business, and helping to grow their online presence. There’s no hesitation when he answers: Email.

They started growing their list very early in, and they know how to work it. Whenever I see an Artisan’s Email in my inbox, I groan- because I know f I open it, I’ll wind up there by sundown. They’re that enticing.

“Obviously, the big stores have more money to spend on marketing,” Ben says. “But, Artisans has A LOT of long term customers- they love the choices that are curated. And my mom is a GREAT buyer.” There’s a notable sense of pride in his mom’s acumen.

I ask if that’s what differentiates them and keeps them flourishing in a climate where many small businesses never make it past the two-year mark- especially brick and mortar efforts.

“You can build up all the goodwill in the world, but if people don’t buy what you’re selling, the business won’t fly,” Ben asserts.

“We also really strive to have amazing customer service, and staff many more people than other stores of our size might, so that we can deliver that individual attention.”

Note: They really do. They help pick gifts, then they wrap them for free, and everyone working at the counter weighs in with the different options and eventually, the utter perfection of your choice. It’s very fun.:)

Ben concludes, “People seem to enjoy shopping at a small local business, because they understand the source better and build a rapport with the family and the artists.”

I hope the Armstrong’s flourish at Artisans Gallery for many years to come- they definitely make my daily life infinitely richer (and easier!) and I support them whenever possible. Believe me, it’s no trial.

Enjoy the online catalog, and as this holiday season approaches, remember: Sometimes it’s well worth it to go five dollars higher in price point on a gift and know that you’ve supported the infrastructure of your local community. Shop small businesses! They really, really appreciate it- and it’s wicked fun.

And, with these specials, you’re not paying a premium to buy small business. You’re just getting the real human touch.:)

I leave you with the Artisan’s Gallery Specials for the week of 11/24/2010- they ROCK.

If you decide to scope out the online version of Artisans, know that they offer Free Gift Wrap, Free Personalized Enclosure Cards, and Shipping to anywhere in the USA.

Black Friday Special at Artisans Gallery

Black Friday Special at Artisans Gallery, MD

This Week’s Deals: 11/24/2010
$10 off a purchase of $50 or more (click for a printable coupon)

Black Friday: (NOTE: STORE OPENS ONE HOUR EARLY, 9 AM, ON BLACK FRIDAY! Get there early.:) Free gift with purchase to the first 50 customers.
Monogram Discounts: All personalized monogrammed items and services are 10% off, and ship for free.
Location: Artisan’s Gallery, located at 12147 Darnestown Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878-2205
Phone Number: (301) 990-3219
Hours: Weekdays 10am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 11am-5pm

Small Business Saturday

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity ), which I also adhere to.

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Comments (2)

  1. Ginger Armstrong Thursday - 25 / 11 / 2010 Reply
    Wow!!! Lindsey, you wrote such a flattering and amazing blog about us. Thank you so much for your kind words. It makes me happy that we are setting the kind of atmosphere in the store that you have described. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
  2. rockrollmama Friday - 26 / 11 / 2010 Reply
    Ginger, Thank you so much! As soon as I heard about Small Business Saturday, I knew EXACTLY the business I wanted t write about- you guys are my prototype for doing it right. I hope your Thanksgiving was awesome, and that the rest of your holiday season is equally spectacular!xoxo, Lindsay

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