This month more bad news flooded in from the retail world. Brick and mortars just can’t seem to survive the giants online. Whether it be Amazon, Walmart, or Target.com—everyone wants and has become accustomed to relying on two-day free shipping at their fingertips. With popularity growing consistently for even more instant gratification through services like InstaCart and Amazon Now “old school” shopping is getting left in the dust. Not even the giant Toys “R” Us can keep their doors open, as bankruptcy for the company was announced this past month.
Now, I love a Target run, Amazon.com late night sweep, and Zulily raid like the next mom…but the thought of my children soon not being able to feel the magic of roaming free in a toy store crushes me. Wandering into little hole in the wall gems that offer unique items that owners and shop keepers have hand picked to represent their idea of what is coveted and unique and special is an experience I don’t want to lose. I remember one of my favorite past times growing up was going into my local bookstore, Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport, NY. I have precious memories of my brother and I picking out tiny treasures like marbles, stickers, and figures that we would visit until we earned taking one home. It’s so much fun to go back and visit and see my littles light up the way I used to at this non-cookie cutter special shop that now is owned by another local and friend!
Yes, it’s true, my perspective is influenced as a small business owner. My business, the Craft Studio, was opened in 1994 and I fell in love with it as a college kid working part time. Upon asking the founder to let me expand the business into classes and workshops, she asked if I would like to buy her store so she could retire. Together, we worked out a deal where a 21-year-old freshly graduated college student with loans could slowly work off paying for the business. An NYC magical landmark and cherished spot to so many families would stay open. Every year it gets harder and harder to survive. Rent hikes, insurance hikes, etc, etc, etc. Nonetheless, I refuse to sacrifice what makes the Craft Studio…the Craft Studio. That means the best quality of everything and, at the heart of it, an amazing staff and team. We will always continue to give our people and team the best we can and as a result customers get the best experience when they shop, craft, or celebrate with us; an experience a retail giant simply cannot replicate.
As a small business owner I often have people ask me: “How come this is cheaper on Amazon?” Or they say: “I can just go to Target and get party favors for less.” Or: “What do you mean you have to order it and it takes more than two days for it to arrive to me?” Let me tell you: I get it, every penny counts. As a mom-of-two in this crazy-expensive city, I know you have to do what you can to scrape by. But I promise you…. when the retail giants have the same items for less than your local shops, but they still are making more off of you than any small business. A small store can only order a fraction of an item a giant store orders 6,000 or more of. Manufacturers give them huge price cuts that in turn giant stores are able to give to consumers while still making a pretty penny.
This article was prompted by hearing another NYC special shop was closing: Clyde’s, the charismatic and personality-filled pharmacy on the UES. I guess I had blinders on that the “good ones” would always be able to survive. I fear my favorite bakery, pub, clothing boutique, and more might be next. I want NYC to stay the way it has been: A melting pot of cultures and offerings of all different people and cultures. Losing more and more of our small businesses will certainly curtail our city streets from the magic and diversity of what they once were.
I am challenging myself to make even more of a solid effort to shop small. I have a number of birthday parties coming up and I am going to take the extra time to go to a brick and mortar store to help provide maybe a tiny bit of insurance that my girls will get to have the sensory overload and completely magical moments of wandering into retail shops and literally feeling like kids in a candy store.