Making spirits bright for small businesses could be more important than ever in Birmingham

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 22, 2021

 Paint Nail Bar, a non-toxic nail salon, is owned by local couple  Rich Pfaff and his wife, Nicole Meadows.

Paint Nail Bar, a non-toxic nail salon, is owned by local couple Rich Pfaff and his wife, Nicole Meadows.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

  Urban Wick Candle Bar in downtown Birmingham offers custom-scented home items, including many gifts for the holidays.

Urban Wick Candle Bar in downtown Birmingham offers custom-scented home items, including many gifts for the holidays.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

 Lil’ Rascals — a children’s apparel, toys and gift boutique — has been serving Birmingham patrons for nine years.

Lil’ Rascals — a children’s apparel, toys and gift boutique — has been serving Birmingham patrons for nine years.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Shopping District

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BIRMINGHAM — It’s the time of year when everyone is looking for holiday gifts, so why not check out some locally owned retail shops and restaurants to help round out your shopping list?

This holiday season, some argue that it’s even more important to buy local, which in turn can help support the community.

The push comes just before Small Business Saturday, held this year on Nov. 27, a campaign that asks consumers to buy local from a brick-and-mortar small business.

Sean Kammer, the executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District, said there’s “never been a more important time” for shoppers to show their love for small businesses.

“It’s a critical time for small businesses,” he explained. “As we all know, they suffered a lot of pressures through the COVID pandemic — with being shut down and having their revenue stream affected — and now, as the economy is trying to pick back up, they’re running into supply chain issues and everything else. The number of pressures on small business owners now is so immense.”

Having a mix of local small businesses alongside national retailers is really important to a healthy downtown area, he said.

“Although a lot of those national chains might be a draw for a lot of people to come into the downtown, having that mix of small businesses in with your downtown — alongside your national chains — actually gives your downtown a significant amount of resiliency, so it will be better protected against surges of vacancies when there is a downturn in the economy.”

Kammer said small local businesses are much better at forming strong relationships with residents.

“It helps foster this sense of connection to downtown as a place, by having these small businesses. I think that is a major way in which they give back. And they help foster a sense of ownership among residents in their downtowns too,” he added.

Lyudviga Shneyders, a Russian-born fashion designer with over 25 years of experience in the industry, has spent the last 11 years building relationships with Birmingham shoppers at her couture fashion design studio, Viga.

“I have always focused on customer service, because it’s very important. Happy customers are returning customers. If they are happy with what you have to offer and how you provide services, they will definitely recommend you to somebody, and they will come back,” Shneyders said.

She believes small businesses are personal and can make a difference in a community.

“America is built on small businesses, which give to the economy much larger than corporate. If you buy local, you are giving back to the community. Mom and pop shops are personal. In my boutique, I do a lot of handmade products and I put my heart and soul into it,” she said.  

Lil’ Rascals — a children’s apparel, toys and gift store — has been in Birmingham for nine years.

“Part of what makes Lil’ Rascals so special is that we listen to our customers’ requests and stock our store with what they love,” Serena Chammout, owner of Lil’ Rascals, said in a statement. “To show appreciation for our amazing customers, the entire store will be on sale during Small Business Saturday.”

Paint Nail Bar, which opened in downtown Birmingham in November 2020, is family owned.

“We grew up here, my family grew up here, and we have been involved in businesses here our whole lives. It’s important for the survival of the community to have a good healthy environment here,” said Rich Pfaff, who owns the business with his wife, Nicole Meadows.

Urban Wick Candle Bar, which offers both experiences and custom-scented home items, opened downtown in July of 2020.

“We strive to be the best part of someone’s day. Shopping small gives us the opportunity to make everyone feel like a guest in our home,” Marlene Mansour, owner of Urban Wick Candle Bar, said in a statement.  

Small businesses often pour their energy, time and money into local events and organizations that help strengthen the ties within a community.

Beth Hussey, the co-owner of Hazel, Ravines & Downtown restaurant, will be offering complimentary hot chocolate under a tent outdoors 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the corner of Maple and Old Woodward during Small Business Saturday.

“Shopping local is so important — especially with what’s happened in the world lately. It’s so sad to think of a world without cute little quaint downtowns with businesses and community members working, so, hopefully, everyone will go out and support them — not just on Small Business Saturday, but all the days,” said Hussey.

For more information about Small Business Saturday in downtown Birmingham, visit www.allinbirmingham.com.

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