By Alyssa Seidman
The advent of online shopping has allowed shoppers to take their skills to the internet, where scrolling, clicking and data input replace face-to-face business transactions. Sites like Amazon, Wayfair and Overstock have globalized the national economy, luring more and more consumers to log in and buy.
But among the online outlets are the small-business owners, the passion-driven champions of local economies. In Bellmore, the local business community is thriving, with nearly 230 merchants comprising the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores.
Last weekend, with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday on the calendar, storeowners were busier than ever catering to the community’s retail needs. The Herald Life spoke to three local businesses to hear how they compete with online outlets, what holiday promotions they’re offering and the value of shopping small.
The Urban Farmhouse
In 2017, Crystal Brenner, Lisa Costa and Jenna Rigert opened the Urban Farmhouse on Bedford Avenue. The store sells traditional, rustic and handmade home décor items curated by local artists. As the farmhouse trend evolved, the owners launched an extension of the business two doors down, Urban Farmhouse Furnishings, which opened this April. Here residents can shop for antique furniture, clocks, mirrors, chandeliers and larger furnishings such as customizable farm tables, armoires and consoles.
This year, the owners launched a website and two satellite locations in Suffolk County. At clothing boutiques Thred, in Patchogue, and Pandemonium, in Babylon, shoppers can also find Urban Farmhouse’s home décor offerings.
“We are so lucky that so many people on Long Island really support small businesses and want to shop small,” said Rigert. “The benefit of shopping small is you get great customer service. We do a lot of custom pieces, which attracts people more than any home décor site.”
For Small Business Saturday, Urban Farmhouse offered a 15 percent discount on all items storewide and raffled off $125 gift cards to encourage people to shop locally.
Rigert said that the ability of the business to personalize gifts would give them an edge during the holiday shopping rush. “We do personalization on ornaments, all signs and wooden and paperback book sets,” she said. “People love custom, and they love looking for specific pieces for their home, so we’re fortunate enough to work with a ton of local artists who are super crafty and handy.”
Philip Joseph Jewelers
Philip Joseph Jewelers has served Long Island for more than 25 years. The business carries a selection of designer engagement rings, necklaces, bracelets and watches — and can customize jewelry.
A self-proclaimed “queen of online shopping,” store manager Neda Farahmanda said, “There are certain items you cannot buy online, and jewelry is one of those things. You can’t see the quality of the items online.”
While online outlets offer jewelry at lower prices, making it harder to compete, Philip Joseph Jewelers provides other amenities. “We have different price ranges, customer service, return and exchange, and full repairs on premises,” Farahmanda said.
The store is offering 25 percent off select items this holiday season, and VIP customers can get up to 35 percent off. At Philip Joseph Jewelers, “You know what you’re getting,” Farahmanda said.
Clothesline Clothing Co.
Lisa Sanfilippo has been styling residents out of Clothesline Clothing Co. for more than a decade. The Bedford Avenue boutique offers a mix of the latest contemporary collections, tees, premium denim and a unique assortment of accessories, including designer handbags, belts, jewelry, lingerie, shoes and gift items.
While business has improved over the years, Sanfilippo acknowledged the “tough retail climate” imposed by the online outlets. “We can’t offer steep discounts like the big box stores that have a larger volume of customers, but we offer different products and promotions to our customer base,” she said.
Clothesline also offers a personalized styling service. Sanfilippo’s staff provides expertise and advice, and gives shopping tips to those who want to be up on the latest trends. “Whether it’s for one outfit or a whole season, we help customers put together looks,” she said. “That’s the whole benefit of shopping local — the personal attention.”
Sanfilippo said the store would offer promotions on a week-by-week basis through the holidays, and recommends customers check the store’s social media pages to stay current.
“Local businesses need customers to come back,” Sanfilippo added. “Word of mouth goes a long way, it’s a great help, but what also brings in other people is the fellow businesses.”