Yesterday we looked at statistics and the amount of potential retail space Newburgh contains. There were a lot of ideas about what kind of businesses the public wants and the types of cuisines they crave. Next up is some Newburgher advice in Part II of the business scene survey results.
The next part of the survey asked two similar questions. The first was, what realistic solutions or ideas would participants offer future Newburgh business owners in opening up a successful business that will attract non-Newburghers and Newburghers a like? One person made a great point about business hours. They mentioned that they live in Beacon, but often go to Newburgh to shop because the Main Street Beacon businesses don’t keep regular hours. They said, “if you’re starting a business, take it seriously! Stock it well and open as many hours as you can.” Right there you see that there is potential to get business from the other side of the river, not just Newburgh. Another person said, “business owners can not be afraid of Newburgh. If a business is going to be successful they need to have night hours. Many of the new places that have opened up have limited night hours, because of that I can only support their business on the weekends (Saturdays). ” Another point I liked said the following, “Be different and appear as high end as possible. Mrs Max, Caffe Machiatto and The Wherehouse have proven that if you move in, know what you’re doing and look the part, that people take notice and the riff-raff move on…and promote the area as a destination that includes your business to draw new people in for the whole experience of being downtown.” This advice suggests that if you can appear high end and expensive, but not charge high end expensive prices, people will be drawn to you. A good idea would be to look up on the internet interiors of businesses that have used creative, inexpensive means to decorate but are still high impact and dramatic. Newburghers want to see “interiors and exteriors that look like they have been done by a professional. Chic is always in.” Someone else made a point about the signage. They said to use a “bold and professional logo and signage to stand out from the hundreds of little “mom and pop” shops that have little to no signage.” This is true to make your business look legit. There have been many fly by night businesses that have opened up in Newburgh, and people don’t pay attention to them simply because they look no more professional than your average lemonade stand. The word “legit” came up many times in survey responses. By saying the word legit we mean that you need to have a website, a professional logo, and a professional look. It also wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of uniform, like white shirt and black pants for all employees. I can’t tell you how many hits I get from people trying to look up new Newburgh businesses that have no website. Invest the money it would take to have a professional logo made and use one of the many free or low cost web applications to start up a website. It makes a difference. Check out this article on how to start up a website in one weekend. People and most importantly the press pay attention to presentation!
Safety was another issue for many. If the sidewalk of your business is dimly lit with garbage thrown about, who is going to feel safe visiting after the sun goes down? Clean up the garbage in front of your store, or the next 5 storefronts if you have to. Use a high powered light to shine in front of your sidewalk to deter people from just lounging around if they aren’t your customers. It should be noted that The Wherehouse ,Caffe Macchiato, and Newburgh Art Supply have never experienced crime. I don’t know directly the history of other businesses, but I am pretty positive they haven’t experienced anything either. Something else to consider is the curb appeal, landscaping, or cityscaping of your storefront. Use an inviting sidewalk sign to highlight specials. Get a few inexpensive barrel planters with pretty flowers. Chain them if you have to. Green is appealing. Think about getting an awning that adds charm. If you look back at old Newburgh photos like the ones from yesterday, every business had an awning. Parking was a concern for many and rightly so. However, people need to remember that downtown Newburgh is a City and not a suburb, only so much can be done. Newburgh was built before the car which, reflects the lack of parking. But, as a business owner try to think about creative alternatives that will appeal to the public. One person mentioned, “connect with other merchants to form collective security.” Talk to other merchants and look out for each other. Some would like to see more police presence. Try offering discounts to City officers as an initiative for them to show up in your shop more often. They will be a welcoming site to families, the elderly, and single people alike.
Another person suggested taking a unique approach, of catering to an adventurous audience. They said, “the middle class White consumer is not coming unless their is something truly special and unique they can’t find at Chili’s or the mall. Build a base of products that appeal to the hip hop young audience and when it’s positive and without fear and prejudice it will catch on and the middle class consumer will follow.” We don’t live in a world with out fear or prejudice, but this person has something. If you cater to the local population, but still make what you offer special and unique, you will attract different demographics to your establishment. An example of this is at the restaurant, Christine’s on Broadway. Although they aren’t really “mixing” he has customers of all kinds by giving the option of having a take-out section and a dining section. The owner gives more detail here. “Don’t fix the cultural mix, embrace it.”
Advertising was also addressed. “Promote like mad” one person said. Another mentioned something very interesting, “Washington’s HQ needs to be kept open and host more events or at least have an involvement in promoting the area. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know it’s open to the public!” Someone else said, “We have some businesses in Newburgh that you would never know are here except by word of mouth or just coming upon them.” This is totally true. The entire Washington Headquarters area needs to be promoted together as a whole experience. Establishments all over the city should take advantage of the free advertising out there. Facebook has helped many business owners. Recently I spoke to one business owner in Newburgh who said that they received some of their biggest sales from new customers whom they connected with via Facebook. Create a fan page and network out with other Newburghers or people of your trade on Facebook. Another method that is really popular right now is doing give-aways on blogs that specialize in your trade or market. You offer a gift certificate, service, or item of your choice to any one random person who comments on the blog. Click here to see how a really famous blog does it. You can offer your idea to any blogger.
Customer service was an issue for some. One comment I particularly liked said, “I remember when I was growing up the little shops that were located on Broadway and Liberty Street. What I remember most is that they all knew my mothers name. If we went to the meat market they knew what cuts of meats she liked. If we went into the shoe store they knew my name and my shoe size. I guess what I think is missing is the personal rapport that the business owners had with their customers. I believe good customer service will draw people from my age group as well as a good quality product.” Another person said, “There is a Mexican restaurant on Broadway that my husband loves and we visit regularly, yet neither of us knows the name of it or can point it out from the street. The first time he took me there I was nervous because the exterior does not look clean or welcoming. When you walk in the ambiance is fairly welcoming but the staff does not make you feel like they want your business. The food is fantastic though and that’s the only reason we go back.” Not all businesses might be so fortunate to have customers who keep returning like the one just mentioned. Personal interest is something that many people value when visiting an establishment. We live in a world that lacks face to face interaction with emails, text messages, and internet. Get to know your customers, and don’t forget to thank them for shopping locally! Something else to mention is that business owners and employees are first the encounters many out-of-towners have with Newburgh. So make sure that you and your staff are Newburgh ambassadors and speak well of the positive things going on and the commercial development. Promote your city! (We will discuss this later in another blog entry.)
Tomorrow is the last part of Newburgher advice….Part III of Newburgh’s business scene survey results.