Saturday, December 6, 2008

Independent Retailer by Carolyn Weise

Independent Retailer by Carolyn Weise

What's all the hoopla about independent reatails?

I mean, what's the difference if we buy from a large box store a small Ma & Pa store in town? We're looking for bargains, right? We're looking for the best bang for the buck, you're darned right. When it comes to my pets, especially my koi, these days I am looking for real value and honest workmanship. I want to buy something that will stand up to weather, time and whatever else I can throw at it in the course of my hobby.

My purchases need to be more than inexpensive, they need to be durable. They need to be backed by knowledgeable vendors who just might care about me and my purchase. It's not enough to have the salesman smile at me when I pay for items. I want them to talk to me like I matter! I love it when they know my family. I'm not going to be "cheated" by friends who care.

If I return an item and tell them it didn't work for me, I want them to figure out why, not just give me the money back.

I want to know if its something I did wrong or if there is a better product to use. Sometimes, if rushed to make a purchase, or if there isn't a sales assistant at hand, as i most big box stores. I will buy the wrong thing. But having a sales person who knows my hobby and is familiar with his stock, I am in safe hands. He will recommend something that has worked for him, personally.

That's the difference - and the value - I am looking for in an Independent Retail Store!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How do you officially kick off the holiday season?

So what's the true start of the Holiday season for you and your family?

Some people tell me it's when they buy that first Christmas present. Or the Black Friday shopping craze the day after Thanksgiving. For my mother, who picks out a new ornament every year for the tree, it's finding that perfect one.

For us, it's when my husband puts up the outside lights and something goes drastically wrong. Like the year we didn't use enough clips to secure the icicles to the roof and they all sprang off at once, while we were in the driveway admiring our work. The year before, something wasn't grounded right and things got sparkly and bright in a way we didn't mean.

This year, we laid everything out perfectly, bought the correct anchoring, made sure there were no splits in the extension cord ... and hung everything up without testing the lights first. Two strands are out, and my husband says they're staying that way until the end of the season. Unless I want the season to end now.

Oh, and my wayward dog has christened the tree by whizzing on the stand. Does it every year.

So it's officially the holidays for us. Long may they rave.

Log in and share your own stories here! (Mostly so I know that I'm not alone.)

We're on the radio!!

In case you missed it, was featured on WMNF, Tampa Bay's community radio station, on Monday night.

One correction, though: has almost 600 businesses listed. The report gives an incorrect number.

Here is the link to their story:

To hear the complete story -- and preview's song! -- you need to download the audio portion. Segment of localshops1 is about 45 minutes into the program ... The above link also includes this shorter, text version of the report:

Though rain may have cancelled most of the performances that were scheduled for a children’s talent show in Gulfport on Sunday, it did not dampen the spirits of, the organizers for the event. The Gulfport-based website is devoted to the promotion of independent, local businesses in the Tampa Bay area.

David Knoll a local Gulfport singer, serenaded the crowd with an original song about The audience consisted mostly of parents and the owners of the neighboring shops that line Beach Boulevard and who came to support the website. Pat Largo, the marketing manager for the website, said was launched on Aug. 1. He said the website was created as a resource and alternative method to shop and keep money in our local markets that thrive in Pinellas and the surrounding counties.

The founder of, Ester Venouziou said the website helps bring the community together, and the talent show was just an example of their outreach efforts. Shopping locally helps support your neighbors, Venouziou said, instead of helping to support huge corporations.

The proceeds from the raffle that was held at the talent show were being donated to the Woman Warrior. Inc., a non- profit organization that brings spoken word poetry and other artistic outlets to at-risk teens.

Adrienne Nadeau, president and founder of the Warrior Woman, said she has always loved poetry and felt that it was an important form of expression to bring to young adults. She said she looks forward to the future plans of the organization.

Bianca Cypser is the owner of Complexions Skin Care in Gulfport; she has worked with the founder of Local since the beginning. She said since working with the website and participating in their events, it has given her life a new meaning.

-- Ester

Monday, December 1, 2008

November contest finalists!

In November we asked, what are you most grateful for?

Want to see who won the great prizes from Backyard Getaway in Bradenton and If and Only If in St. Pete? You'll have to wait a few days. Winner will be posted this week, on

Meanwhile, here are five of our favorite responses:

"I am most thankful for The Word Of God. Whatever problems you face in
life, I know what book can show the answer. Isn't this Reason for the
-- Jackie L. Simpson, aka the Old Gold Lady

What or Who Am I Most Grateful For

*Her name is Mimi. She is small, still young and came into my life three
years ago and is the one who I am most grateful for.

It all began one cold, windy November afternoon in a sedate
Clearwater neighborhood. My dear church friend, Edward had called
me and said that I should meet and get to know Mimi. He said
he was interested in finding a new, loving home for her.

When I arrived at Edward's spacious home, I was enthralled by the
many miniature Dachshunds running happily throughout his
living room. I learned that Edward breeds Dachshunds
and when they have reached an adult stage he tries to find good
homes for them.

A happy group of young and adult Doxies yelped, jumped, begged
for attention and,wouldn't your know, managed to set a nice run in
my new pantyhose.

"Well ,which one is Mimi?", I asked Edward. He pointed to a corner
of the living room where, curled up on a large soft pillow was the
sweetest, little Dachshund I had ever seen.

Her soft, long haired coat was reddish-black. Her graceful snout
and dark eyes added to her overall beauty.

I called to her and she slowly, shyly came to me. Edward said it would
be okay for me to pick her up which I did. Once in my lap, Mimi
immediately lay down, gently resting her head on my breast and looking up
at me with her large,sad eyes.

I fell in love at that moment!

Mimi is now my constant companion. We take drives together to a park,
to the grocery store and a drive which she does not always enjoy, to
the vet. Otherwise, she loves to ride in the car.

She sleeps with me at night and even begins to yawn, perk up her ears
sit up straight to alert me that it is time for us to retire. This happens
every evening at 10 o'clock. Mimi must have a built in timer.

Yes, I am so very grateful that Mimi has come into my life. She has
brought joy and love to me.
-- Joanie Simpson

*I am grateful for the ability to BE grateful.

*I have experienced death, loss of love, heartbreak, parenthood, business
success & failure, drastic life changes,
trauma, and many other /seeming/ reasons NOT to be grateful. However, in
the face of all of these outside circumstances
I have learned to go within and find gratitude FOR those experiences and the
lessons I walked away with in the end.
And, with these new eyes my life has become a journey into a daily gratitude
list. So, the act of giving thanks is done
with a smile and a loving heart, which, I extend to my fellow human being
wherever and whenever I can.
I have learned to view the world differently than I once did, and in that
the gift of being truly grateful was born.
Living my life in a state of appreciation is gratitude in action for me.

Jennifer Steele, Spinderellas boutique

I am thankful that my 76 year old father has found some happiness
in working part-time after a rough 2007. In February we lost my Mom (they
had been married for 52 years), a month later I had to have their beloved
dog, Elle, put to sleep and two weeks after that his good friend, Bill, died
in an home accident. Just when he thought he was able to start working
again - we found out he needed quadruple bypass surgery in November. He
came through with flying colors and started working in April - four hours a
day, four days a week. I am grateful he has found some purpose.
-- Linda Flack

*First let me say, we are not always born into the family we want to be in.
As we grow older we can pick who is apart of our family. The one person that
I am most grateful for is a woman who didn't know if she wanted children. I
was dropped into her lap at the age of 5 and I didn't know her anymore then
I knew the other people in my life. She stepped up and took on that role
into the unknown. Uncertain of everything she would do or say. I wasn't born
to her and I was already my own person. She was concerned of the trauma I
had already faced at such a young age. She showed me love, understanding, a
caring touch and always an ear to hear what I had to say. If it had not been
for this wonderful 5 foot 1 very petite but voiceful women who I learned to
call MOM, I would have never known love. She was taken from me way to early
and there was still to much for her to be apart of. I am so grateful that my
mom took a chance on a little damaged 5 year old girl and wrapped me in her
unconditional love. *
-- Tamara Hart

Promoting your business

Tom Shay, a nationally acclaimed writer and business coach, offers marketing tips on his Web site, ... it's free to browse.

Here's a marketing tip, especially for December:

'Tag team' coupons

December is the month when we see the most cars in the parking lot and you should take advantage of the opportunity to get your message to as many people as possible.

When we first did this in our business, we partnered with another business that was located on one of the out parcels of the shopping center where we were both located; for the most part each business had its' own unique customer base so by working together we could introduce our customers to each other's business.

We created 7 coupons - one for each day of the week, and we used the same 7 coupons for several weeks before making any changes. Each of the coupons were printed on a different color of paper so that a customer shopping on multiple days would easily see they were getting different coupons. One side of the coupon featured one business, and the other side was for the second business.

Each business agreed to hand out coupons to their customers as well as put coupons on the windows of cars parked in the immediate area of each store. This promotion is easy to create and implement, and costs very little.

--- encourages businesses to work together. It really does benefit everyone.

Please check out our Web site for hundreds of listings. If your store isn't there, you can add it. It's free.

-- Ester Venouziou