Small Business Owners at Bozzuto-Managed Communities Share Their Small Business Saturday Plans
There’s a certain feeling that comes with shopping at a locally-owned store that big corporations can’t quite replicate. Whether it’s exceptional service or one-of-a-kind items, local businesses are able to provide something personal, unique and comfortable.
Each year, Americans throughout the nation participate in Small Business Saturday. This initiative was founded by American Express in 2010 and highlights the importance of supporting small businesses. This year’s Small Business Saturday is November 24th. As the day continues to gain recognition, it’s important to make sure your neighborhood’s small business owners are recognized and supported.
We are proud to manage over two million square feet of retail throughout the Bozzuto Management Company (BMC) portfolio. This includes nearly 200 small businesses and ranges from restaurants to bakeries, fitness studios to small gyms and even florists, dentists, dry cleaners and more.
To give you an idea of what it’s like to be a small business owner, we spoke with three owners at Bozzuto-managed communities:
- Danny Fleishman, owner of Bethesda Bagels at Insignia on M in Washington, D.C.
- Owen Wright, co-owner of Wright & Goebel Wine & Spirits at The Hub in Brooklyn, NY
- Gino Kozera, owner of Amber at Anthem House in Baltimore, MD
How did you start your own business?
Danny: My dad started Bethesda Bagels in 1982. I have an older brother and a younger brother. We all work; my wife does all the catering, and my mom also works once in a while. It really is a family business. My dad had five stores back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and there were too many headaches for one guy.
I graduated from Maryland in ’09 and said I wanted to open another store. It took two years almost to the day to find the store in Dupont. It was a learning curve, but after a few years things settled down and I looked with a broker for another location. I was close to signing a lease in Crystal City, but we lost out to somebody else. We finally found this space at Insignia on M and we’re so happy because it is the perfect location.
Owen: Stephanie and I became small business owners because of two factors. First, we were living in a rapidly changing neighborhood with a retail offering that was not keeping pace with the increased need for high-end shopping options. In short, there were lots of luxury condos going up but no luxury stores. So, we saw an opportunity to serve a market. The other factor was the timing of the economy. The financial crisis of 2008 was a difficult time to find work in New York. Real estate was relatively cheap to lease, so we made our own work, rather than seeking out employment elsewhere.
What’s your day-to-day experience as a small business owner?
Gino: When you’re a small business, it’s definitely more of a hands-on operation. As an owner, you take on all the risks. The accountability is different. As a small business owner, you wear many hats, from operations and sales to marketing, research, accounting and payroll.
Owen: Stephanie is there usually six days a week, full time. She’s much more active on the front end of the operation, and I’m on the back end, so I don’t necessarily have to be in the store. I do all the books and the legal work. There’s something every single day for either me or Stephanie to take care of.
On average, how many hours per week do you spend in your business?
Gino: Too many to count!
Danny: Lots of hours. I’m there by 5:30 a.m. every day and I get out at about 3:00 p.m. most days. I do a lot of bouncing around to the different locations just because we’re in Bethesda, Dupont, here (Navy Yard) and we’re going to open in Rosslyn. I had to manage the construction when we renovated our Bethesda store in March. Now I’m in Rosslyn a couple hours every single day. It’s a lot of hours. Everyone in my family works weekends.
Owen: That’s the hard part. It’s a 24-hour a day job. It never really ends. There’s no real vacation. There are no real days off. You sort of always have to be available.
What’s it like competing with mega chain stores or restaurants?
Danny: There’s a personal touch with small businesses. I mean, we see the same people come in every day. One of my family members is in the store pretty much every single day, so we really have a personal touch with all of the customers. We actually do this thing where we create a button on our register for our regulars to make it easier. They’ll come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ll get my usual.‘and we’ll have a button that says ‘Quincy’ for instance—he’s the meter-maid around here and comes in all the time.
Owen: I think our customers would prefer to shop at a small business rather than a large chain. I think just in principle that they feel it’s probably the right thing to do. Our customers, who tend to be a bit on the higher-end, are more socially conscious and would prefer to spend their money at a small business versus a big box store.
Gino: I think people want the authenticity of supporting local. As a small business owner, I try to buy regionally and locally to support that same local supply chain. I think people want to have a connection with the establishment and the people who work there.
What’s different about running a small business now versus 20 years ago?
Owen: Small businesses today probably have a lot more moving parts than those 20 years ago. We have to be technologically savvy, run websites, worry about cyber theft and be on top of legal and employment issues in a much more sophisticated way than in the good old days when a simple storefront was sufficient to stay afloat. Because of online price shopping, we have to find unique ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition and to think of new language to describe our product without resorting to sales and endless promotions. We have a long-term approach to our customer relationships. That is, we are taking the time now, in the early years, to build our reputation for taste and knowledgeable advice. This will build customer loyalty and trust. I image that strategy, however, is quite similar to a mom-and-pop store of yesteryear.
Gino: Social media is very important now to small businesses. Print ads don’t really exist anymore. It’s photos, it’s memories, it’s using the channels of other people to relay your message. In this generation, you don’t have full control of your message. There’s much more power in other people. Now, everyone’s a reviewer. So, even in the faster, tech-savvy generation, you really have no control over that. That’s why I always focus on the service and operations.
What will be your focus on Small Business Saturday?
Gino: Our message is that we are local and that we support local…our supply chain is local, our meats, our produce—everything is local. Even our coffee and beer are local.
What’s your experience operating a business at a Bozzuto-managed community?
Danny: The management team is great. Someone from the office at Insignia on M comes in every day to get food and it feels nice to feel supported.
Gino: I think the one thing about Bozzuto is that they support quality. The thing we have in common is that they provide a great service to residents and retail tenants, which would be the same thing for me being customer-focused. The cross-promotions, promoting the business inside the community is an asset too because we each want to help one another be successful in building something that’s going to provide for a happy resident mix and retail mix.Learn more about Bozzuto Retail