YORK VILLAGE SHOPPING CENTER
7330 GEORGE WASHINGTON MEMORIAL HWY, YORKTOWN, VA

“In York County, over 95% of businesses are considered “small businesses” under the state’s definition. These businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy. They employ thousands of local residents and support hundreds of community organizations. They pay a significant portion of all local taxes, thus reducing the burden for citizens, and they give back to the community in countless other ways. (Keep It In York County)”

Out of that 95% of businesses in York County, Retail Alliance has the pleasure of highlighting five members located in the York Village Shopping Center off of George Washington Memorial Highway.

All five member businesses are a part of our buy local program and app, promoting the importance of small business and shopping local in our communities. Now, let’s learn more about these businesses, lessons learned, victories, and overall journey of retail store ownership.

Source: Keep It In York County. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from http://keepitinyorkcounty.com/index.php/york-county/about

ALLEY CAT

Alley Cat, established in 1997, sells new and used merchandise, “all at thrift prices!” Owners, Gloria and Bill Zeff started this business after previously owning another business.

One of the biggest challenges they faced when starting this business was how to navigate building capital, funding and creation of advertising for their store. When asked, “what do you wish you knew then that you know now?” they answered, the impact of the recession on business. Since the recession, the Zeffs are focused on re-establishing and have even down-sized to adjust to the current business and economic climate.

Although they have faced many challenges, Alley Cat remains a business with 16 years of profit! Other than the profit, the Zeffs enjoy the freedom to schedule and alternate hours with each other. Their future goal for the business is to continue a healthy and steady growth for their store.

Words of advice: “Have patience – nothing happens overnight.”

CAROL’S CORNER HOME GOODS & MORE

Carol’s Corner Home Goods & More (Carol’s Corner), established in 2017, sells home décor items and provides advice on decorating. Owner, Frances Rodan, previously owned a coffee shop and started this business because she enjoys working with the public and running her own business. Starting this new business proved challenging as Rodan struggled initially with getting stock to open. Fortunately, she was able to overcome this challenge by renting spaces to fill the shop.

Currently, the store is being challenged by, and is overcoming, the “slow times and lack of foot traffic” by advertising on social media to boost visibility. There will always be challenges that arise, but great business success is result of finding solutions and implementing them. Carol’s Corner contributes its success to offering great prices and setting themselves apart from competitors with “awesome customer service.” The best part of running this business to Rodan is being able to offer a product that she believes in and having the freedom to make business a family affair.

Words of Advice: “Make sure [you’re] in a good location and believe in what you offer to your customers.”

COZY COTTAGE

Cozy Cottage, owned by John and Cheryl Slavnik, is a small family owned antique mall which rents out booths to antique dealers. It is known for its nautical and Amish-made items as well as its unique set-up.

John and Cheryl purchased the business in 2013 from a cousin who had previously owned it for 20 years. Upon purchasing the mall, the biggest challenge facing the couple was to reassure the dealers already established there they weren’t going to be making any drastic changes. They kept everything as it was, but just cleaned the shop and made it more appealing.

Aiming to be one of the top antique malls on the Peninsula, they understand that the antique business isn’t what it used to be, with younger generations not as interested. They attempt to reach younger audiences and other age groups too by connecting through Facebook and advertising on sites such as Trash & Treasure and Craigslist. “The best way to make money in this business is to advertise and get your name out there,” Cheryl advises.

Another lesson learned is to always “have plenty of surplus stock on hand for when items are sold out.” Cheryl added, “Owning our own business allows us flexibility and the ability to make changes how and when we need to, as well as advertise the way we feel is best suited to our business goals.”

Words of Advice: “Do your homework to see what other businesses in your category do to successfully get their business name out there.”

UNCLE B’S THRIFT SHOP

Uncle B’s Thrift Shop, established in 2017, is a thrift store that sells original artwork, estate jewelry,

DVDs, and furniture (including repair, repainting,

and reupholstery service). Owner, Brian Betts, started his own business because of his love and yearning to learn the history of different items like furniture, collectibles, pop culture memorabilia, to name a few. Betts enjoys the process of research and assigning value to the unique items he sells in his store.

This thrift shop is a new business and can tell us first-hand the challenges when starting a business. Being new, Betts states that “letting customers know we’re here” is important for his business’s future. Also, the additional tests, such as the initial investment and “hidden” costs have been unexpected challenges for the store. Betts has taken on a do-it-yourself mentality and is utilizing the various tools available via online marketing to help resolve those initial challenges. Future goals for the business include expansion to a bigger location, plus continuing to enjoy the freedom that business ownership provides.

Words of Advice: Make sure you “are 100% committed to your business, but remain flexible and adapt to the needs of your customers.”

YORK UNIFORMS

York Uniforms, established in 1992, sells scrubs, shoes, accessories, restaurant, and school uniforms. Owner, Ute Fee, started this business because it was something she always dreamed about. The initial challenge Fee faced was getting the support from her family to take the big leap into entrepreneurship. In retrospect, Fee wishes she had taken classes in business and marketing to help but first-hand experience was her teacher. Fast forward to now, Fee says the biggest challenge is finding the quality employees and developing a balanced work culture.

Being a retailer takes a high degree of resiliency which is why Fee contributes her business success to “sticking with her dream, despite problems that come up.”

Fee’s future goals for the business include “being #1 in customer service and providing [for] the needs of the customer.” Lastly, Fee had posed these final questions to anyone looking to start a retail business:

“Are you prepared to work a year for pennies? Because you put your earnings back into the business. Are you ready to work whenever the business needs you? Are your decisions based on a guess? Or informed by either learned mistakes or advice of successful owners, or reading, etc.