Talking Shop: My Small-Business Column Debuts!

My business column for The Harrison Report debuted this week. You can view it on the newspaper's site here. I've reprinted it below with additional photos. Special thanks to Managing Editor Mark Lungariello for this opportunity.

Shop Talk
Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 22 July 2010 17:12
As any Harrisonite will tell you, there are countless shops and businesses that give our community its charm and character. Many are doing their best to retain customers or attract new ones in this economy, and this monthly column will examine marketing trends in the area and enable other businesses to apply the wisdom gained to their own operations.

In West Harrison … IT’S ALL IN THE NAME: Changing a company name is a major decision, especially in terms of brand marketing. Before doing so, be sure your new name is easy to remember, that it follows suit with your target market’s expectations and that it stands out amongst your competitors. Keep in mind that you’ll have to budget for the creation of a new logo; the printing of new signage, business cards and letterhead; updates to your website and more. Further, the change must happen strategically, so as not to alienate regular customers.

Summertime is a fine time for the Silver Lake area of West Harrison, with a variety of local commerce offerings and their proximity to the Ron Belmont Pool in Passidomo Park. “The summer is always better for business here,” said Tino Giresi, co-owner of Café Eats, a popular neighborhood delicatessen that recently underwent a name change.

According to Giresi, one reason he decided to change his company name from Giresi Salumeria is because the deli went from a family-operated business to one in which he and two silent partners merged with a company called Café Eats.

Giresi said the former name was also hard to pronounce. “Salumeria” is Italian for “cured meat shop,” more commonly referred to as “Italian delicatessen.” Though West Harrison features a large Italian-American population — with which the former name resonated —Giresi wanted to broaden his customer base.

In terms of impact, Giresi said his regulars were initially dismayed, thinking that the change meant their trusted neighborhood deli was leaving the area. But once those loyal customers realized that Giresi himself was there to stay, they got on board. And the fact that the deli added 75 sandwiches to the menu made the transition even tastier. Some have snarky names like “911” (which features a bevy of hot meats, including sopressata and pepperoni, topped off with hot sauce) and “Sting Like a Bee” (mortadella, ham, smoked mozzarella, broccoli rabe and roasted peppers), while others have local flair like “Harrison Huskies,” “Harrison’s Finest” and “Frank Russo.”

The decisions Giresi made have translated into greater profits. Sales are up 20 percent from the same time last year, just after the Silver Lake area was hit hard with the construction of the pool. “The construction didn’t just affect us; it murdered us,” he said. In fact, he had to close up shop for an entire week. To overcome such physical obstacles and get people in the door, Giresi offered a three-course family feast that fed four to six people for $35. It’s this type of forward thinking that keeps small businesses afloat.

But the deli’s specialty is European-style thin-crust pizza, featuring fresh basil, fresh mozzarella (sliced, not shredded) and San Marzano tomatoes, handmade by Chef Gaetano Mangano. “It’s the best-kept secret in West Harrison,” Giresi said, “We have people who come from downtown Harrison just to get our pizza.” I can personally attest to it; I thought I had to go into the city to get a slice this good.

In Development… Many West Harrison residents have been wondering what’s happening with the property at 97 Lake St. After speaking with Project Manager John Robinson, I discovered that the space — owned by Purchase resident Alan Smith — will soon house 97 Lake, a sports bar and restaurant, with an opening date set for mid-August. According to Robinson, the project is on schedule and a grand opening is slated for September. “This area is an up-and-comer,” Robinson said, “and as a resident myself, I believe that 97 Lake will fill a void.”

And in Downtown … After much delay, the CVS in downtown Harrison will be opening on July 25.

This Month’s Shop Talk Tip: Post Your Business Hours Don’t leave people guessing whether you’re open. Post your hours of operation clearly on your storefront window or door, and if you have to step away or close early, leave a sign, even a handwritten one. This past week, a shop in downtown Harrison left its door open with no staff tending the store, leaving a patron perplexed and disappointed. That could have been a future customer, maybe even a potential regular, so be sure to let your customers know how much you value their time.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.