Huntington shops prepared for the holidays
While shopping malls and big-name brands pay for television commercials and newspaper ads to bring in shoppers, Bon Bons Chocolatier and Little Switzerland Toys and Dolls remain quietly nestled along Huntington’s Main Street. The small businesses are stocking their shelves and welcoming customers for the holiday shopping season, neither shop relying on publicity to be able to make a sale.
Although she said online shopping hurts small retailers and is aware of large, corporate brands dominating toy sales, this holiday Lily Bergh, a Huntington resident and the owner of Little Switzerland Toys and Dolls, anticipates a successful season. “I think this season has started off to be really good. I hope to have a very good season,” said Bergh, who has operated her store for 35 years. “Last year, we wound up having 12 percent more than I anticipated, so now I hope to have 15 or 20 percent more.”
“I love what I do. Love it.” Bergh opened her store in 1981 selling only dolls, but about a decade ago began bringing in stock of other items to keep up with market demand as a small business. “I converted to [dolls and] toys so it balances out,” she said. “When somebody comes in, I have everything from ‘a’ to ‘z.’”
Susannah Meinersman is also confident in her small business this holiday season. Meinersman, who has co-owned Bon Bons Chocolatier with her mother, Mary Alice Meinersman, for over 25 years, said they work as fast as they can to make sure they can put out a full inventory of product for the holidays. “We are working around the clock in order to get everything out and done in a month or so,” Meinersman said.
The shop makes a variety of specialty items to cater to the holidays. “We do a lot of molded items like Santa Clauses and snowmen and trees,” she said. “Marzipan is very popular; we do a bourbon vanilla truffle and we do a mint meltaway that’s all chocolate and has a little crushed peppermint on top.”
There is a common misconception that small businesses cannot survive year after year when corporate companies monopolize the business world. This July’s Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey, which measures small business owners’ optimism, showed that the Index’s overall score rose to 68. That is a 9-point increase from last July’s score of 59, and a steady index number since January’s score of 67. When small business owners who took the survey were asked about the number of jobs at their company, a majority of owners said jobs either stayed the same or increased. A majority of owners also had positive answers for their company’s cash flow over the past and upcoming 12 months.
While the survey also discovered the top concern of small business owners is attracting customers and finding new business, Bengh has her own strategy for attracting and keeping longtime customers. ”I work with schools, churches and synagogues,” she said. ”We support them, and in turn they come and support us. If they have an event to raise money to buy something for the school, I make a basket and in return they come and shop here.”
The doll and toy enthusiast does not focus on the competition of big-name stores. “We have loyal customers who have been coming here for a long time,” she said. “I had a woman come from Boston last week. She makes a point to come before Christmas to do all her Christmas shopping every year.”
For Meinersman, the chocolate treats, which are all handmade, hand-decorated and wrapped, create not only a local business, but also a nationwide business as the shop receives orders. “We ship lots and lots of gifts, especially at this holiday,” Meinersman said. “A lot of people send things all over the country to their relatives. We ship things around the island, to Manhattan, everywhere.”