I’m hardly a business analyst, but I’m seeing a new trend popping up here, a new defense for small businesses fighting against the evil Empire.
A friend and I went out to Natomas to check out a new yarn store today. They have very strange hours for a yarn store. 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturdays. Most people are sitting at a desk somewhere for the bulk of that. However, not being bound by conventional business hours, we happily headed out there this morning, Google Maps printout in hand. We drove past the big box strip malls of Natomas and out on a long road into Industrial Office Land. We found ourselves, curiously enough, at the door of a warehouse building with an “open” sign, inside of which was a cozy yarn shop full of wondrous fibers of all varieties, with the prerequisite friendly lady knitting behind the counter.
“How nice,” I said, “to have to a job where you can knit while you work.”
She laughed. “Only when there is a customer in the shop,” she said. “Otherwise I have to go in the back and do real work.”
So what’s the deal? This is a internet business selling yarn. In back is the office where orders are processed. I’m standing in the store front which also serves, I suppose, as the warehouse for internet orders. Correction: I’m standing there holding an arm-full of a cashmere/silk/merino blend that is beautiful to look at and so fabulous to touch that, as the owner puts it, “it’s almost edible.”
This isn’t the only store of its kind that I’ve met recently. Earlier this year, a hemp store opened up in downtown Woodland. They sell clothes and bags and, yes, yarn, made of hemp. Very nice folks. I was in there the day it opened and they told me that mine was the first purchase from someone they didn’t already know. Glad to help. We were chatting about Woodland, as they were new to town. I suggested that they get on the local wiki.
“Do you have a website?” I asked.
“Yep.” the owner said. “That’s what we are.”
These folks have been around for awhile in the wilds of the internet. Now their warehouse is their store front. I would imagine that retail space in a downtown like Woodland, with businesses closing left and right and big box stores drawing a circle around the outside of town out by the freeway, is reasonably priced. You may not get tons of foot traffic, but if you already have an online shopper-base, you may not need that.
There are a lot of empty store fronts downtown. Imagine if a few more shops on this business plan moved in. You just might starting getting that foot traffic after all.
Here’s to a few new local businesses. May the force be with you. You’re our only hope.