Stretching My Copy Muscles: Introducing Copper Fields Design

My first foray into writing high-end retail product content is the recently launched site copperfieldsdesign.com.

New York artisan Sam Spano creates handmade outdoor copper planters that add instant charm to your home or garden. It was a pleasure to craft copy for such a gorgeous product.

An added bonus is that Copper Fields uses sustainable materials like reclaimed ipe in fashioning their decorative planters.

 

 

Visit the Copper Fields site to browse their collections of copper planters, planters with trellises, copper furniture, window boxes, vases and more!

Congratulations to Sam and Suzanne Spano on the site launch. I so enjoyed telling your product story!

Cheers,
Carla

Is Your Business Twitter-Fated? All Signs Point to Yes!

As a follow-up to our Forward Motion radio show on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in which host Carmen Carrozza and I discussed online marketing with INDIEbusiness entrepreneur Donna Maria Coles Johnson, I'd like to emphasize the overlying message we were trying to convey to business owners:

IF YOU'RE NOT ON TWITTER YET, YOU SHOULD BE.

Doesn't matter what product you're peddling or service you're selling; Donna Maria made it rather clear that every business can up its value by using Twitter to reach out to customers, fans and the general public, in hopes of making true connections with them — connections that foster long-term growth for your company, because common interests and circumstances (discoverable through social media likes, tweets, posts and comments) bring people together. Once relationships are established, you never know when that connection will lead to a sale or another opportunity for you or your company.

THE NO-FEAR APPROACH TO TWITTER

When I asked Donna Maria what she would say to a business owner who is afraid that he or she can't think of anything valuable to say on Twitter, or is afraid of not being able to dish out enough content, she summed up her answer in 3 words: "Get over it." She reassured our listeners that their tweets don't have to be pithy, or even industry-related for that matter. Simply sharing your favorite ice cream flavor, she said, can lead to a true connection.

Read Donna Maria's excellent blog post about how to "Get Over It" and get going on expanding your customer base through social media by clicking here or clicking the image below.

QUICK STUDY

Afraid you don't know the lingo or how to find others on Twitter or how to use keywords? Twitter provides a great getting-started section for businesses. The best way, however, is just to dive in and get started. You'll catch on simply by watching how other businesses use the space.

And to read up on etiquette, check out The Morning News' savvy guide to polite Twitter usage.

To listen to our Forward Motion conversation with Donna Maria, download the podcast.

LET'S CONNECT!

Follow me on Twitter and I'll be happy to follow you too. Can't wait to see you get started!

See you soon,

Carla "Mint Chocolate Chip" Fisher

Easy Peasy Password-Keeping

Everyone uses passwords. A lot of them. To exist online, either as a consumer or as a business owner, you must employ the use of secure passwords, and keeping track of them all is no picnic — especially if you're like me, and you try to come up with mixes of numbers and letters to make them extra secure. Like I once did, you probably find yourself more often than not racking your brain to recall that once so-clever-because-it's-so-tricky password, or even to remember which version of your usual password you've used for a particular site that you need to log into stat. "Remember Me" functions often have time limits (ex. two weeks), or are made null when you have to reset your browser or clear your cache. And sure, there's the "Forgot Password?" function, but even those can be time-consuming, especially when security questions you've long forgotten are involved.

The solution I've found for my business, and recommend to my clients, is 1Password, a software application that saves all your logins, e-mail accounts and identities in one easy-peasy virtual vault.

1Password is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems and its features go well beyond keychain tools that come with system software. Here's why:

+ This isn't just a matter of copying and pasting from stored data. By far, 1Password's best feature is that you open your vault, find the login for the site you want to visit and double-click it — next thing you know, the software is logging you in automatically. No copying or pasting of usernames or passwords. Of course, you have to enter them initially when setting up your logins, but that process is quite painless and will save you oodles of time in the long run. NOTE: In Preferences > Logins, you must have the box checked that reads "Submit automatically after filling a login (Autosubmit)" for autologin to occur.

+ Another fantastic feature is that if you ever change your password or create a new log in on a site, an 1Password prompt will ask you if you'd like to update your existing login with this info or save the new information as a new login in your vault. I cannot emphasize how convenient it is that I don't have to make a note somewhere myself regarding my password change.

+  You can backup your data. In 1Password's "Preferences" section, you can set how often you want to back up your password files, and where on your hard drive you'd like those backups saved. Of course, whether you do so is up to you. Some people don't like to store passwords or secure info on their computer, because in the case of a system crash (or a fire), they would lose that data forever. Others don't wish to employ the autologin feature, for fear that if their system was ever hacked, their account info would be compromised. How you choose to handle these security considerations is a personal choice, and you can always search user forums for advice from others who are grappling with the same issues.

+ You can set a preference for which browser you'd like opened when you double-click for autologins.

+ You can organize your logins in separate folders. For my business, I have different folders for different clients, with stored credentials I access on a regular basis. For my personal usage, my husband and I each have a folder for our regular logins, from social media sites to bill-paying to music downloads to online pizza delivery.

We are all looking for ways to make our crazy-busy lives easier. Getting password-keeping software is a step in the right direction toward freeing up your valuable time so that you can more effectively run your business, and your life.

Please note that I have no affiliation with 1Password; I simply like it. Try it free for 30 days and see for yourself.

Securely speaking,

Carla

Want more tips? Visit Facebook.com/saidandsung.

Shop Talk: Holiday Shopping (and Promotion) Starts Here

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Nov. 5, 2010.

Shop Talk Business happenings in and around Harrison

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 5 November 2010

In West Harrison…

UNIQUE IN NEW YORK: Shop Talk's first reader write-in recommendation prompted me to visit West Harrison last week. Walking into 23 Taylor Square, I discovered a gift wonderland that smells like Christmas.

Taylor Square Shoppe can serve as an example for retail storeowners, especially for ideas on how to bump up store traffic and holiday sales. And since we all have holiday shopping to do ourselves, you should stop in and view the store’s unique offerings, because you just may find you don’t need to shop anywhere else.

It’s amazing how many items 750 sq. ft. can hold. Turns out, the wonderful aroma upon my entering was the Frasier Fir scent in the Thymes candle line, also available in hand lotion and other products.

Owner Maria Anella opened the shop five months ago, and is planning a grand opening in mid-November, just in time for the holidays. Having managed the Chilmark Gift Gallery at Prescription Plus in Briarcliff for the past 12 years, Anella jumped at the chance to open a gift gallery in West Harrison, where she’s lived for 20 years.

“I love this community, and I fill my store with things I love,” she said. “It really is my dream store, and I love what I do.”

As a local merchant and mother to a son who came up through the school system, Anella continues to be a hands-on volunteer. She’ll soon be joining the community neighborhood watch and the newly reopened Harrison Chamber of Commerce. During each of the weekly neighborhood car shows over the summer, Anella gave away $25 gift cards. At last week’s Halloween parade, she gave away Silly Bandz to the kids. She knows that freebies are a great way to get customers in the door.

When choosing which items to carry, Anella considers her customers. “I like to find things that are different, and I think, ‘What’s a great gift for a great price?’” Here you’ll find stylish gifts starting at $3. And handbags start at $24. Kids can shop for inexpensive gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. Bosses can shop for company gifts. No matter the recipient, Anella has great taste: A bracelet she carries was featured in last month’s issue of InStyle magazine.

A sampling of what you’ll find at Taylor Square Shoppe: accessories like scarves, including pashminas; jewelry, from funky costume jewelry to high-end designers like Judith Jack and Crislu, as well as vintage lines like Annie Koplik and Clara Beau; tween gifts; boys’ gifts; baby gifts; men’s and women’s watches; wallets; handbags by former Vera Bradley designer Stephanie Dawn; Lolita wine and martini glasses; the Tea Forte line of silk-infused tea; fancy walking canes; Voluspa candles; lint-free flour sack kitchen towels; and greeting cards, from the popular Champagne line to homemade cards, including handmade cards by Samantha Shopovick, a ninth-grader at Harrison High School.

A certified pharmacy technician in her former career, Anella is huge on customer service. It’s why she offers free gift-wrapping and free local delivery (including downtown Harrison, White Plains, North White Plains and North Castle), why she takes pride in creating custom gift baskets and why she offers discounts — seniors and teachers receive 10 percent off, as does anyone visiting the store for the first time. She also ships.

During my visit, store patron Marie Tedeschi came in for her custom-ordered gift basket. “I’m not normally a shopper, but Maria makes it so easy,” Tedeschi said. “She comes up with beautiful ideas all the time. I just love this store; it’s so convenient to have this here.”

Gift baskets are Anella’s specialty. For individuals and companies, she fills them with Ferrara products and other Italian imports and items carefully chosen for the recipient. She also creates fruit baskets, baby baskets and wedding baskets.

A smart marketer, Anella maintains a mailing list for sending postcards with valuable offers, and her son helped her post flyers throughout Park Lane. Since marketing changes with the times, Anella knew she needed to be on Facebook when she was shopping online and saw the ubiquitous “Find us on Facebook” tagline. She’s received great responses from her Facebook page, especially from Harrison teachers.

Holiday hours are Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 12-9 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Call 914-949-3800.

Talk Back

In what ways have you reached out to customers in your community? Are there promotion ideas aside from those discussed in this article that have been effective for your business? Comment and share!

Shop Talk TipTime to Post Your Holiday Hours

Even in October, I started seeing signs in storefronts advertising holiday hours, the most creative being Quizno’s, on the corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues: “Quiz the Season.” Posting holiday hours early lets your customers know you care about their busy schedules so they can plan errands accordingly. Be sure to post the holidays you observe, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, so your customers know you won’t be open on those days. Read more on my previous post about tips for posting holiday hours.

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 is on the Executive Board of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce.

Need help with your company's marketing and promotions? Visit saidandsung.com.

Have You Posted Your Holiday Hours Yet?

It's November 1, and for the past couple weeks, I've started to notice shops around Westchester announcing their holiday hours. This makes me so happy, seeing companies plan ahead and, most of all, communicating with their customers. If you have a storefront, you should post your holiday hours ASAP. Why? Read on:

1) Keeps customers informed: People like to be in the know, especially savvy holiday shoppers. They want to be able to plan their shopping trips accordingly, and can't do so if they have to guess if and when you'll be open on Black Friday, for example.

2) Shows customers you respect their time. By posting your holiday hours, you're showing your customers you've thought about their busy schedules, and you want to give them plenty of notice so that they can be sure to fit you into their plans.

*****

Now that you know why it's important to post holiday hours now, keep in mind:

TIP #1: Post the holidays you observe, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you observe Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Canadian holidays like Remembrance Day, your customers need to know you won't be open on those days.

Knowing your customers, you may also choose to close on holidays that they observe, on the assumption that you won't get much store traffic. Conversely (and this depends on your particular product or service), if you don't observe a holiday your customers do, then it's possible that you can remain open that day and rake in high profits by being one of the only stores open for their last-minute purchases.

Moreover, you should note whether you'll be open on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving). Some stores will close on both Thursday and Friday, so it's not always a given that they'll be open on the busiest shopping day of the year.

TIP #2: Say it with style. Quizno's used a play on words — "Quiz the Season" — to announce its holiday hours (see photo above). From a design standpoint, the use of the color red signifies that the store follows the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's holiday calendar, and it also allows those particular hours to stand out visually alongside its normal business hours.

Need help with your holiday promotions or signage? E-mail me.

Season's Greetings,

Carla

facebook.com/saidandsung

You’re Looking at WGCH’s Newest Listeners’ Advocate …

Great news!

Last week on WGCH's Forward Motion, Business and Life Coach Carmen Carrozza asked me to be a regular contributor on his show! I will be the show's Listeners' Advocate, playing the role of the layperson, sporadically asking questions for clarification or rebutting when necessary to speak on the listeners' behalf, or just plain causing some good old-fashioned back-and-forth! In essence, a co-host.

You can hear Forward Motion every Tuesday from 4-4:30 p.m. EST on wgch.com. Just click "Listen Live." Call in with your questions and comments at 203-661-5051.

The Oct. 12 show was my third appearance on the show. It was special to me not only because Carmen asked me to be a regular contributor, but also because I was able to speak in tribute to my late father, a small-business owner for 50 years. Listen to the podcast here.

Hope to hear you call in on a future show!

Carla

Returning to Forward Motion Radio Show

Tune in today (Oct. 12) at 4 p.m. EDT, as I make my third appearance on life and business coach Carmen Carrozza's "Forward Motion" radio show. You can listen live on 1490 AM WGCH.

As always, Carmen and I will discuss how we can assist small businesses and entrepreneurs in their marketing plan efforts. Listen in and call us at 203-661-5051 with your questions!

Cheers,

Carla

Husky Ways to Cross-Promote Sponsorships

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 30, 2010. Click to download a PDF of printed version of the paper.

Shop Talk

Business happenings in and around Harrison

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 30 September 2010 12:54
A BANNER START TO THE SCHOOL YEAR: My small-business heart was all aflutter a few weeks ago when those “Home of the Huskies” banners began appearing throughout the downtown area. To see the outpouring of support for our school athletics is a wonderful thing, plus the banners just make Harrison look so pretty. And guess what? More are on the way!The second shipment is due later this week, according to Lola Alvora, of the Harrison Booster Club. Her son, Duke, is a senior football player at Harrison High School. Alvora and two other Booster Club moms came up with the idea – Robin Basciano and Stacie Bogdany, whose daughters, Alexa (senior) and Angelica (freshman), respectively, are cheerleaders at the high school.

“We’ve seen banners like this in college towns and in a town in [New] Jersey,” Alvaro said. “When we saw these towns supporting their teams, we thought, ‘How about us?’” Initially, the Boosters had planned to keep the banners up until Christmas, but are hoping to keep them up longer, pending Town Board approval. They would also love to make this an annual event.

The banners represent any and all sports, plus band families. “They not only beautify the town, but also let any kid who participates in sports or activities know just how supportive the town is,” said Alvaro. In all, 95 banners have been sponsored, 50 percent by businesses and 50 percent by families and individuals.

The downtown banners were set to stretch along both sides of Halstead Avenue from St. Gregory’s on Broadway to the new flooring store near Parsons Street, but when they ran out of poles, the Booster Club decided to also make use of both sides of Harrison Avenue. Seven banners are up in West Harrison. Mayor Joan Walsh helped Alvora in her efforts to implement the idea, and also sponsored a banner, at the southeast corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“These banners are for anybody who wants to just plain support the town,” Alvaro said. “The fact that Mayor Walsh and Judge Marc Lust’s family each sponsored banners wasn’t political; rather, because they simply love the Huskies.”

Funds raised from the banners will go to anything the teams need, as determined by the coaches. A portion of the money will also be given back to Harrison in another beautifying way, to buy flowers to plant in some empty flowerpots in downtown.

From a marketing standpoint, sponsorship should be touted. So I ask:

1) How can businesses maximize the visibility of their sponsorship?

2) How does the proximity of each banner to its storefront play a part in bringing about awareness?

First, I suggested to Alvaro that they announce the sponsors at the football games. After all, people attending games are those who most appreciate the sponsorship and are a captive audience. Since no more home games remain this season, Alvaro said she’d happily implement that idea for next year.

Second, Alvaro said each business decides whether their two-sided banner should be placed out front or anywhere in town. From my perspective, having one directly out front reinforces the pride in sponsoring the teams, but having one far away from the storefront potentially draws in new customers who otherwise may not have that particular store in their daily travels.

Butler Bros. Market Place Co-Owner Brian Butler was one shop owner who didn’t specify where the banner should be placed; he just happened to land a primo spot, along with Station Cleaners, at the bus stop on the northwest corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“It’s where people stop at the light to make a right turn, and are idle waiting for the bus, so we’re very happy with our spot,” said Butler, who is proud to be part of something that is being done for the first time in Harrison. “Our major goal was to support the town and the school and the Boosters. We got on board early because we wanted to help give them a head start.”

For those owners whose banners are not located outside their shop, you can opt to put your street address or a relative address on the banner, such as “Across from RR station” or “three blocks down,” which helps town visitors. Alvaro said some businesses put their phone number or website. Butler chose to have the phrase “Fine Foods” included on his banner, as a way of describing the business. Just keep in mind: The more you put on the banner, the smaller the letters will be.

If you prefer, put up a small sign in your store: “We’re proud sponsors of the Huskies!” Or, create a promotion with a sign that says, “Find our banner and get 10 percent off!” and then offer 10 percent off to customers who tell you the location of your banner.

Alvaro hopes the banners help boost the local economy. “I used to go to dinner in the surrounding towns, but now that I see the support our dining establishments have shown for our kids, I now go out to dinner in Harrison,” she said.

If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Alvaro at 843-3377 or e-mail lolaalvora@yahoo.com. Alvora wishes to offer special thanks to Signs Plus in Mamaroneck, owned by Ron and Debbie Linsalto.

*****

A FOND FAREWELL: On Sept. 1, the small-business world suffered a great loss, as did I: My father, Anthony Arnone, passed away from cancer at age 71.

Though the bakery, deli and food importing business he owned and operated for 50 years is located in Erie, Pa., his legacy is here in Harrison, as he is the reason I am such a strong proponent of small business. Seeing how hard he worked throughout his life, and growing up in that family-business environment made me realize that opportunity is available if you have the passion and are willing to sacrifice and put in the hours. A lifelong Yankee fan, my father tried out for the Bronx Bombers when he was a teenager, but had to return home to take over the family store when his father suffered a heart attack. He sacrificed his dream, and created a new one for himself and his family. Thank you, Dad. I miss you and love you.

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.

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Want some fresh ideas to strengthen your marketing efforts? Contact me at carla@saidandsung.com.

Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners

Still think you don't need a website, or that yours was a waste of money? Pshaw! Read my latest column below, which was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 2, 2010. Marketing guru/freelance writer Allen Mogol contributed to the research of this column. Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:46
Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners“I spent all this money on my website, and it hasn’t brought me a single sale.” For small-business owners with sparkling, newly launched websites, this is a common lament. You’ve invested time and money in your website. Why, you ask, after three days — or three months — hasn’t my site paid for itself? Have I wasted my investment?

Probably not. Your website is a long-term investment. Instead of expecting your site to pay off immediately, consider that it takes time to attract and persuade a new customer to buy. A website can begin the process, but not necessarily seal the deal. A website can also remind your existing customers that you’re there for them 24/7, placing you on par with bigger businesses, and also let them know about new products, services, discount offers or special events. Your site can help keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds when they need you, but may not necessarily result in an instant sale.

You actually may be getting business from your site without knowing it. If you ask your customers how they heard about you, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a traffic-builder your website has become. Especially if you’ve got video: Forester Research tells us you are 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google’s search results if you have video on your website. And any good site designer these days will input keywords into the site’s coding to maximize its chances of being easily found on search engines.

5 key benefits websites offer:

1) Credibility. If your bank, favorite cable channel or preferred charity didn’t have a website, you’d wonder about its professionalism and reliability. By the very act of having a website, you’re telling your current and potential customers that you’re legitimate, current and committed to be there for them, not just now but down the road. When you meet someone in a business setting who makes a good impression, don’t you want to find out more about what they do? If he or she doesn’t have a web presence, it’s natural that you’d wonder about your new acquaintance’s level of expertise.

2) Convenience. Does that restaurant you’d like to try have vegetarian options? Is it wheelchair accessible? Busy consumers are used to getting instant answers not just when deciding where to eat, but when deciding on colors for their kitchens or where to buy school supplies. A website allows potential customers to get answers or even make purchases at their convenience, no matter what time of the day, often saving them the parking and traffic headaches that come with heading to actual storefronts. Whether refillable pencils or paint samples, a website transforms your business hours from 9-to-5 to 24/7.

3) Browsing. When potential customers are investigating a purchase, product photos online can result in a visit to your store when those customers are ready to buy, no matter if it’s tomorrow or months from now. It’s modern-day window-shopping. I recently watched an employee at a tea shop set up a stand in front of the store, offering free samples to dozens of passersby. Over 10 or 15 minutes, close to 50 samples must’ve been given out. And not one sampler walked into the store. A waste of time and product? Absolutely not. The product is delicious, and the shop made lots of impressions among tea drinkers that will likely pay off in the long run.

4) Reach. Let’s say you own a children’s furniture store. That’s usually the kind of store that potential shoppers will check out online first, before making in-person visits. They won’t go miles out of their way, not when they can go online first. And they likely won’t decide immediately. Your website is your chance to persuade customers to travel to your business, rather than go to the nearest one. Just know that the visit might not happen for weeks or months, as most people tend to research purchases — mostly through online reviews — before visiting the store to investigate further.

5) Branding. This may be the most important benefit of all. Your website is an ideal tool you should be tying in with all your other marketing efforts. In fact, you’ll increase site traffic by taking every opportunity to let your customers know you’ve got a website. Place your URL on fliers, your storefront display, business cards, coupons, menus, bags…virtually everywhere you promote your business. A website doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s part of your overall campaign. But you’ve got to make it known. Lots of companies Harrisonites do business with make sure their web address is prominent whenever they send out a postcard about a sale, an invoice for a previous purchase or a catalog promoting its whole line. Reminding customers about their websites gives customers a chance to find out more, and might persuade them to place an order or pay an in-person visit.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area or want more info on creating a web presence for your business, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Need a writer for your website? Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.

Shop Talk: One Door Closes, Another Opens in Downtown Harrison

The following column was originally published in The Harrison Report on August 5, 2010. It is reprinted below with additional photos.

Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 05 August 2010 15:25
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 column will examine marketing trends in the area and enable other businesses to apply the wisdom gained to their own operations.

One door closes, another opens

In Downtown ... As you make your way through downtown Harrison these days, you can’t miss the signs. They’re plastered in every available window of a shop that has been open for business for 29 years. The kind of signs you don’t wish to see. At Gold Rush Jewelers, 267 Halstead Ave., they read “Going Out of Business Sale,” “Fixtures for Sale” and “Store Closing Sale.”

The closing of Gold Rush Jewelers is a sign itself of the continuing merchant struggles in downtown Harrison. When I visited the store both to talk with owner Jason Manstream and to take advantage of the total liquidation sale, I found myself speaking in a funereal tone. “Well, take care,” I said when I left, averting my eyes. The sad circumstances felt completely antithetical to my natural role as a cheerleader for local business; I take closings of mom-and-pop shops hard. And Gold Rush is where my husband and I purchased our wedding bands, and where we got them engraved to mark our first anniversary. It’s also where I got my goddaughter’s christening present, and on this particular day, a chain to match, for her upcoming second birthday.

I asked Manstream why the decision was made to close the store now. “Summer is the worst time of year for retail,” he said. “We wouldn’t make it to Christmas.”

Across the street, the opposite signage: “Grand Opening” and “Now Open.” Those signs belong to CVS/pharmacy, whose arrival at 270 Halstead Ave. in Harrison was two-and-a-half years in the making. When asked if Gold Rush should postpone its closing in the hopes that the store traffic from CVS/pharmacy might cross the street to Gold Rush, Manstream said it’s non-issue. “It’s not about proximity. People just don’t have the money to buy luxury items these days,” he said.

Since taking over the store last year from his parents, Charles and Betty Manstream, Jason said the store’s economic trajectory has been downhill. “There was nothing I could have done differently to fight against the down economy,” he said. “Our potential customers are more in the market to sell off their gold.”

News of Gold Rush’s closing began with a direct-mail letter from the Manstream family sent to 5,000 Harrison residents, stating that it’s time to close. It also featured a sign-up form for a raffle for over $2,000 in prizes, a promotion set up by Wingate Sales Solutions, the nearly 100-year-old consulting company the younger Manstream hired to handle the closing. In addition to that initial entry form, the letter noted that for every $50 you spend in the store, you receive another raffle ticket. During the first week, 200 people had signed up for the raffle.

With the announcement of the Gold Rush’s everything-must-go sale, which began July 22, the store’s daily traffic during that fourth week of July had increased by 300 percent. That turnout was generated strictly from the letters and the going-out-of-business signage. By coming out in droves, the Harrison community is sending a strong message that Gold Rush is a part of the town’s heritage and will always hold a warm place in our hearts.

The sale is so big that it’s easy on our tight budgets: The entire inventory has been reduced for quick sale. This includes 14K and 18K gold jewelry, precious and semi-precious stones, pearl jewelry, clocks and watches, fine collectibles and gifts (like humidors and Precious Moments figures). Customers this past week have run the gamut from young to old, including two teenagers who came in while I was in the store, looking for gifts for their girlfriends.

Even with the sale and raffle to soften the blow, some customers have been taking the news rather hard. “They’ll ask me, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’” Manstream said. “But it’s not personal; it’s business. Hopefully, the people of Harrison and I will do business again...” His voice trailed off as he took a long pause. “In another time, another place.”

When I ask if there is any advice he’d like to offer new businesses, Manstream paused. “That’s a tough one. Small business in Harrison is, sadly, dwindling,” he said. He went on to cite the closing of the photo developing a store a few months ago, and I mentioned Bagelicious’ recent closing.

So what’s next for Manstream? That depends on how well the closing sale goes to pay off store debts, etc. He anticipates that the sale will last eight weeks, with the doors closing for good at the end of September. The sale is Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I encourage you, dear readers, to think ahead to Christmas, Hanukkah, upcoming family birthdays or anniversaries and do some early shopping now. You don't see prices like this every day.

*****

Fortunately, there is good news for non-luxury item merchants in the neighborhood. CVS/pharmacy’s presence has brought several shops more foot traffic. According to CVS Store Manager Alexis Nunez, Dunkin’ Donuts, Quizzno’s, Harrison Donut Shop and Harrison Pizza & Pasta have all seen an increase in store traffic as a result of their proximity to the 10,880-square-foot store.

In fact, Nunez made a point to get to know his new neighbors. Prior to the store’s July 25 opening, he visited each business in the neighborhood to gather staff head counts so that he could provide them each with 20 percent off coupons for extra savings on the first day of business. He has also ordered food for his staff from his neighbors, he purchases daily meals in the neighborhood and he recently donated to the Harrison community by providing water bottles for the Summer Concerts in Ma Riis Park, where the Harrison High School cheerleaders sold the water to raise money for new uniforms.

Nunez can sum up the message he wants to send to residents in four words: convenience and customer service. “We want to make the store as convenient as possible for residents,” he said, letting me know that that some customers expressed how frustrated they were at having to go to Mamaroneck or Rye to shop for certain items. Some Harrisonites even came in that first day thanking Nunez for opening, amid exclamations of “finally!”

The hours of operation are also a big part of CVS/pharmacy’s convenience, considering its proximity to the Metro-North station. The store proper is open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. The pharmacy is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday.

As for the service, Nunez said CVS is all about it. “We have both front and back check-out area, in addition to the pharmacy,” he said. “Everybody here is cross-trained, so managers and even pharmacy staff can hop on the register if need be.” He’s already done so. The store also features drive-through pharmacy service (with free delivery), a digital photo cafe, a Healthy Skin Care center and a 37-space parking lot.

The Grand Opening is set for this Sunday, Aug. 8, starting at 7 a.m. Nunez said it will be kid-focused, with balloons, refreshments and Elmo and Cookie Monster on-hand for pictures from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For adults, freebies include gift bags (while supplies last), free skin care analyses and skin care samples. There will also be a drawing for a Healthy Skin Care gift basket valued over $100.

FOR THE RECORD: Just to dispel any rumors that may be surfacing, Bakery & Patisserie, at 247 Halstead Ave., is not closing. The sweet shop owned by Violet and Sean Gerguri is entering its fifth month of operation in downtown Harrison, and while cakes and pastries are their most popular items, they also serve gourmet coffee. “We know that many people are on vacation now, and we are optimistic that business will pick up as we head into the fall and the holiday season,” said Violet. “When people come in, they will see that we offer quality baked goods at a good price.” The bakery also has also become a friendly neighbor, having recently supplied cookies, danishes and other pastries for an art exhibit held two doors down at Masterpiece Framing. I can personally vouch for the bakery’s chocolate ganache cake; it was a hit at a recent party.

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.

Facebook.com/saidandsung

Today, my Saidandsung Facebook Page got its custom URL, also known as a vanity URL. Now, I can use facebook.com/saidandsung in promotions, whether verbally or written, and people can easily find my page. To get one for yourself, read this previous post. I will be using my page to offer people insight on more effective writing; links to fun design, copy and innovative marketing; and ways to be more creative. The Page also features a 'My Band' tab, where you can listen to the songs I've written. Finally, my two worlds of copywriting and songwriting are together on the same site!

Visit my Facebook page and click Like to stay in the loop and to hear my tunes. Hope to see you there!

And send me the link to your Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

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.

Pockets of Information, Part I: Empty Yours by Speaking Up

Yesterday, I enjoyed a brief respite from work to play softball for my Broadway Show League team. During a post-victory conversation with a teammate, I mentioned I was on my way to a meeting with my writing partners for a new children's musical project. My teammate just happened to know a higher-up in the children's musical world, and thus, smack dab in Central Park, a connection — or the promise of one — was made.

The lesson here? My teammate had NO IDEA that in addition to being a freelance business writer, I am also a songwriter, let alone that I have children's songs in my repertoire.

This is a perfect example of what I call Pockets of Information. And they need to be emptied.

SPEAK UP

Don't assume that answering the question "What do you do?" (WDYD) with a job title is enough to spark a connection in the mind of the person to whom you are speaking, especially if you are in business for yourself. In fact, if you answer that initial question confidently (which you always should), then that person may assume that you are all set in your profession and aren't seeking new clients. You also should share more about your other interests, but I'll say more on that in a couple paragraphs.

I'd say a better way to answer the WDYD question (using myself as an example) is, "I'm a freelancer writer and consultant for Web and print, and I'm always seeking new clients in small businesses, corporate clients, even individuals."

As the conversation continues, you should then try to work in any other passions you are pursuing (in my case, this would be my songwriting). Side jobs or businesses, even extracurriculars, can lead to tangental conversations, which are great breeding grounds for expanding your network.

If you own a business with a storefront, that's one thing, because people can see what you do. But if you have additional businesses or are an independent contractor of any kind who keeps the other sides of you deep in your pockets, few people will be able to guess them. By opening your mouth, you open your work and your interests to a new world of possibilities.

So get out there and get talking! Get on Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn to share your likes and dislikes, your passions and your strengths. You'll be stronger for it.

In Part II, I'll discuss how Pockets of Information affect business teams.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Want more tips? Find me on Twitter, on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

Want to hear my music?

Discussing Marketing with Business-Savvy Radio Host Carmen Carrozza

One of my clients, Carmen Carrozza, has a weekly business show on WGCH AM1490. When he asked my ideas for what to name it, I came up with Forward Motion because as a business coach, Carmen is always helping people move forward — individuals looking to land a new job, entrepreneurs launching a new venture, sales teams setting game-changing monthly goals.

I've appeared on the show twice: on 5/25/10 and on 6/22/10.

During my latest appearance, we discussed marketing as it relates to the Social Web, and ways to keep content fresh. We went into what companies of different sizes can do to get more value out of their marketing dollars, by spreading their key messages across allchannels, from their Web sites to blogs to newsletters to Facebook to Twitter.

The biggest message that I was looking to impart to the listening audience was that everything you do as a business owner is an opportunity to promote yourself. This was most evident in my June 19 blog post, in which I describe how experiencing National Donut Day at Dunkin' Donuts sparked an idea for how adjacent small businesses can capitalize on the marketing and promotions of neighboring businesses, especially the large-budget franchises. Carmen and I also discussed some of the work I have done for his business.

Feel free to comment on this post to answer me this: Now that we're almost 7 months into 2010, what's the most effective promotion or marketing effort you've run this year?

With forward motion,

Carla

Get help with your Web site, brochure, newsletter, social media efforts and more at saidandsung.com.

Saidandsung Returns to WGCH … Listen Live!

Business coach Carmen Carrozza and I had such a great time discussing business marketing on his radio show back in May that he's invited me back! Tune into tomorrow to "Forward Motion" on AM 1490 WCGH, from 4-4:30 p.m. Stream it online by visiting WGCH.com and clicking 'Listen Live' at the top left of the show's site.

Carmen and I will be discussing how I've helped his marketing efforts as well as defining which marketing works best for small businesses, large companies, B2B, mom-and-pop shops, retail and professional services. Call in at 203-661-5051 to ask your marketing questions!

You can read more about Carmen on his Web site.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

saidandsung.com

WGCH extends to the Bronx, parts of NYC, the North Shore of Long Island, Brewster and all of Westchester.

Proximity Marketing: Get to Know Your Neighbors

I found out about National Donut Day at Dunkin' Donuts not because of a TV commercial, a magazine ad or an e-newsletter; but rather, because a friend sent an e-mail about it to my inbox. When it comes to freebies, word of mouth travels like, well, high-speed cable. On Friday, June 4, the Dunkin' Donuts in Harrison was hoppin' — from regulars to people who love getting something for free, everyone enjoyed picking out a tasty treat that came free with the purchase of any size beverage.

The amount of small-town foot traffic this special deal generated got me thinking: What if surrounding small businesses had taken advantage of their proximity to this franchise to get people to come into their own stores?

For example, a deli across the street from Dunkin' Donuts that sells milk could have put up a sign on that day saying something like:

MILK GOES GREAT WITH FREE DONUTS

1/2 GALLON ONLY $1 TODAY!

Since Dunkin' Donuts doesn't sell 1/2 gallons of milk, this isn't direct competition — it's complementary thinking. You're capitalizing on the marketing of a complementary service because it happens to be adjacent or nearby to your own business. It doesn't matter if it's a small business or a national franchise. The latter can be a great opportunity because you can benefit not only from that franchise's established store traffic, but also from their national ad campaigns and store promotions.

It's like when a local hair salon partners with a fashion designer to host a fashion show for its grand opening. Hair and fashion go oh so beautifully together.

Another example: Say your business is a wine store and you are adjacent to an art gallery; what a perfect pairing for an exhibit opening! There is a terrific frame shop in Harrison called Masterpiece Framing. The shop's owner, Igor Annopolsky, also houses an art gallery in the shop, where he hosts local artist exhibits, photo contests, art lessons for children and adults, and also wine-and-cheese events. Local wine stores, no matter if they are nearby, should take advantage of this logical pairing and link up with Igor to promote their business conjointly. Or perhaps a local deli could provide the cheese. The possibilities are indeed there.

Basically, it comes down to getting to know your neighbors. You are not alone as a small-business owner. Join your area's Chamber of Commerce, advertise in local publications, say hello to your neighbors as you enter and leave your shop, and most importantly, pay attention to what those around you are promoting.

What logical business pairings come to mind for you? Comment and let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

To get fresh ideas for your marketing plan, e-mail me.

Saidandsung’s Recent Radio Appearance

Being a guest on Carmen Carrozza's radio show, Forward Motion, was a blast! Carmen is a business and executive coach with an extensive financial background who uses his super-savvy economic know-how to help clients and corporate teams reach their potential.

On the air, we had a chance to talk about all the things I'm working on — from business writing to songwriting to teaching children performing arts skills.

I'll soon be joining Carmen again as his guest, and this time, we'll delve deeper into the marketing world of small business and how together we can help your company. Tune in at 4 p.m.!

Thanks for reading,

Carla

On LinkedIn? Connect with me.

Saidandsung Is All Talk … Radio, That Is.

Tomorrow, I'll have the pleasure of being a guest on business coach/life coach Carmen Carrozza's radio show, Forward Motion (named by yours truly). The show will be broadcast on News Talk AM 1490 WCGH, out of Greenwich, Conn., from 4-4:30 p.m.

You can stream it live online or tune in old-school — the reach extends to the Bronx, parts of NYC, the North Shore of Long Island, Brewster and all of Westchester.

This is a thrill for me because it gives me a chance to discuss how I got started with Saidandsung.com and what sort of challenges I've experienced, as well as how awesome my clients are. Plus, it's really great of Carmen to want to promote my business!

You can read more about Carmen on his Web site.

Listen if you can, and thanks for reading,

Carla

Saidandsung Quoted in Article on Small-Business Branding in Small Towns

As a result of my previous post, an article was written in The Harrison Report and I'm quoted in it. Below is a reprint of the original article, published on May 20, 2010.

Much thanks to Managing Editor Mark Lungariello for initially finding what I had to say in my blog interesting enough to work it into a story!

Signs of the Times

Written by Paige Rentz and Charlie Johnson

Thursday, 20 May 2010 18:33

Branding a business in Harrison

When Violet and Sean Gerguri opened their new bakery on Halstead Avenue at the site of a failed bakery at the beginning of April, many customers thought that the previous store had merely reopened after a hiatus.

This was because the Gerguris, who had been flooded out of the shop they owned in Hartsdale, found the new space perfectly ready for them to get to baking. They didn’t change the tables, the flooring, the racks, anything. Even the words painted on the windows fit their business perfectly, so they remained.

The couple soon found that even with their new name – the somewhat generic “Bakery and Patisserie” – stamped across their awning, they still had to contend with the previous tenant’s reputation in the village. Ms. Gerguri said that her new customers suggested ways that she and her husband could differentiate themselves: stickers added to their plain white boxes, flyers, signs on the door and windows.

In the month-and-a-half that the bakery has been open, business has begun to pick up little by little, she said. The main battle is luring the first-time customers through the door because she is confident that once they have a taste of what her bakery has to offer, they’ll surely return.

That battle for foot traffic is all about branding, said Carla Rose Fisher, a Harrison resident who works as a freelance writer and web consultant for corporations and small businesses. “I think that signage is so important,” she said. “For small businesses, a few simple, small adjustments could make a big difference.”

Fisher said that measures like temporary signs or banners proclaiming “Now open!” or sandwich boards advertising specials can make a huge difference to passers-by.

Bagelicious, another Halstead Avenue hot spot, kept the same name when the shop changed hands, but the store expanded its menu to include a large selection of sandwiches and other offerings. In such a situation, the shops should make use of a temporary sign reading something like “under new management,” said Fisher. “Unless they hear it through the grapevine, they won’t know.”

Fisher singles out Rue Des Crepes as a local business that “does a really good job of trying to get people in the door.” At 261 Halstead Ave., the restaurant’s outdoor seating and other inviting features make it a prime target for foot traffic.

Noting a recent store that opened before its sign could be approved by the town, Fisher said that it had been unclear that the business had already opened its doors. “It’s hard for a new business trying to break through,” she said, especially with the time-consuming process required to complete all the necessary approvals before opening.

Town Councilman Joseph Canella (R) said, “The town really needs to be sympathetic to the needs of businesses in general given the difficult economic times,” but that as far as signs are concerned, he thinks the town could use more regulation down the road. “By and large, I think we’re pretty user-friendly,” he said of the process of introducing a business in Harrison.

Just as small businesses in the downtown are struggling to draw in foot traffic, properties along Westchester Avenue seek to do the same on a much larger scale with car traffic from the I-287 corridor.

One property has floated a possible amendment to the zoning code of the SB-O zone (which covers office parks) which would allow more liberal signage for those complexes. Town Councilwoman Marlane Amelio (R) said that a drawing of the change that would be implemented indicates the addition of a rooftop sign at the petitioning complex on Westchester Avenue, a sign designed to be visible from I-287.

Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh (D) said that she is in favor of broadening the scope of allowed signage, within reason, as a means to help customers locate businesses in town. “This is a medical complex,” said Walsh of the office park requesting the zoning amendment. “I think it would be helpful to the patients referred to that building to have the sign.”

Although she said that she preferred not to have the sign measure the entire width of a building, visibility from the interstate would not be a bad thing. “If we limit it to 287 and say it can’t be seen anywhere except 287, then I don’t have a problem with it.”

Though she wants Harrison to be a place that attracts businesses, Amelio worries that any loosening of signage regulations will lead to a deterioration of the town’s aesthetics.

“We certainly do not want to discourage business,” said Amelio. “We want to welcome business but at the same time protect the value of the area.”

Amelio sees lightening of signage restrictions as a slippery slope that would eventually diminish much of the suburban beauty people often associate with Harrison.

“My concern whether it’s one [sign] or four is it establishes a precedent and a precedent that I do not think serves Harrison well,” she said. “Once you do that, it changes the character of the area.”

Amelio added that prior businesses seem to have had no trouble establishing themselves under current signage regulations.

Cannella not only wishes to keep the SB-O zone signage requirements the same, but he also feels that greater restrictions on signage in downtown Harrison could improve the look of that area in the future.

Several years ago, he and other town board members examined changing the signage code to create more uniformity, a measure that would have been “substantially more restrictive,” he said, modeling their recommendations after policies in towns like Scarsdale, which has had very rigid restrictions on signage in place for years.

“They just didn’t develop any traction,” said Cannella of the previous recommendations, “but the goal is desirable.”

However, ultimately there will likely always be a divide between visibility and aesthetics when talking about signage. As Fisher noted, businesses cannot rely solely on “grapevine” advertising to develop a strong customer base.

What strategies businesses are permitted to use in the future to visually attract potential customers could depend on the progress of the economy. If more people are searching, whether for doctors or bakeries, businesses can certainly hope that even modest signage will keep them easily afloat.

To read The Harrison Report and other town newspapers, visit http://hometwn.com.

Need some assistance with your business branding? Visit saidandsung.com to see how I can help.