Story and photographs by Pamela Price
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Leon Springs Community News.
According to a 2009 Bloomberg.com report, the number of small, independent businesses participating in “buy local” marketing campaigns has doubled since 2005. The common motivation? A desire to persuade consumers to skip trips to big box retailers and head to neighborhood stores for their purchases, thereby infusing regional economies with much-needed cash.
While there isn’t a formal Leon Springs “buy local” campaign, area residents who prefer to spend their holiday dollars in the community have several convenient options, be it stocking stuffers or sugarplums that they seek. As it happens, the annual holiday to-do list can serve as impetus for exploring smaller businesses.
For fun, we’ll begin with the search for the humble Christmas card. A visit to The Invitation Chicks, situated on the IH-10 frontage road across from Sonic, seems the logical starting point.
“Our main thing right now is holiday photo cards,” says shop owner Kimbree Camp, who relocated the business from Stone Oak to Leon Springs in October. “We’re also seeing tons of holiday open houses and parties. Those had slowed down due to the recession, but they’re picking up again this year. We love to work with clients on creating one-of-a-kind cards, creating custom items from inspiration found in a picture or in the customer’s head. I’d say that’s our big, special thing: the original cards. We also have several gift items, almost all of them under $10 each. That’s our gift niche.”
Next on the seasonal to-do list are stocking stuffers, which are no longer just for kids. From teacher’s trinkets to a little something for the workplace Secret Santa scheme, the need for tiny treasures abound. If you’re looking to load up on several items at once, pop into The Wash Tub Car Care Center situated just across the street from the Camp’s store.
That’s right. The local car wash is the next stop.
“Of our 20 central Texas stores, we’ve upscaled eight of them to include high-end boutiques. Leon Springs is one of those stores,” says Dottie Martin, a corporate buyer for San Antonio-based business. “People are so busy with errands that we wanted to create a stress-free shopping environment. We also offer items that are unique, not the sort of things you’d find at the mall, Target or other similar stores.”
While it’s true that the gentlemen on your list might enjoy gift books for automobile washes and detailing, The Wash Tub also sells everything from cocktail napkins to lush Lolia brand lotions. Also on offer are pet goodies, baby items and educational toys for kids.
The regular foot traffic for the car wash generates plenty point-of-sale purchases. At the same time Martin says that the small but generously stocked shop is attracting its own following. “We have a lot of destination shoppers actually, in part because we’re very customer-service oriented. We gift wrap and make a real effort to make sure people don’t think of us as ‘just a car wash.’”
Moving down the list to more lavish gifts—and across the highway to The Boardwalk, there’s several gift certificate options available-including yoga, massage, and personal care.
“Most of our gift certificate purchases are by husbands for their wives and daughters,” says Jenifer Hokanson of Salon Soliel Spa. “I think that’s great because women give, women are givers. Sometimes we’re the last to receive, so a personal service is ideal. You know, as a spa owner, I try to create an atmosphere where clients can focus on the experience, enjoying a pedicure or what have you and not seeing it as a ‘chore.’ At the same time, I’m open to creating gift certificates for our Aveda products, too.”
Oops. We left the hostess gifts off the list, didn’t we? And something for Aunt Margaret who still insists on giving us hand-knitted socks. While at The Boardwalk, you can stock up on all sorts of goodies to keep in the emergency gift stash, from high-end glassware, chocolates and jewelry at Giorgio Gifts to eco-wise water bottles and workout gear at Yoga Sanctuary.
Holiday cards, gifts, gift certificates, and hostess presents… what’s left? Well, those would be the memorable gifts designated for your mother or spouse. In a nod to the famous Neiman-Marcus catalog, one could spring for a fancy BMW motorcycle at Alamo BMW/Alamo Sports Cars, a snazzy piece of original jewelry from Fiddlin’ Frogs, or a stunning array of golf gear from the award-winning Ed’s Back 9.
Then again, maybe Mom is more of a pewter gal? If so, you’re in luck.
“People may think of pewter as a high-priced item, yet we sell wholesale to the public,” said Sandra Luke of Pewter Store in The Market at Boerne Stage. “Our items range in price from $2 to $150. You can purchase a salad bowl for less than $50. Each piece is handmade and very different. You can buy a really nice present for very little money. We have over 2500 different pieces, all engravable. When you purchase pewter, you’re purchasing something that lasts for generations and can be used in the fridge, oven or freezer without tarnishing.”
Luke also emphasizes the quality of service that she and her staff offers shoppers. “Our service is personalized, and we have very good relationships with so many people. We even keep a waiting list for highly desired items. This Christmas we’re offering holiday wrap for a nominal charge, and we can ship anywhere in the United States.”
Which means of course that you can spend your holiday dollars locally while keeping your far-flung friends and family happy this holiday season.
Spend It Here, Keep It Here
“For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that [amount] in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.”
‘Buy Local’ Goes National
In the face of the current recession, the “buy local” idea has become so popular that corporate behemoth American Express is spearheading the first-ever nationwide “Small Business Saturday” on November 27 (www.smallbusinesssaturday.com). In December, The 3/50 Project (www.the350project.net) is sponsoring a month-long campaign to engage consumers with their local bricks-and-mortar shops via their “Big Things Come From Small Boxes” initiative. Interested business owners can visit both web sites to download free promotional material.