Circare, 23024 Greater Mack Ave., participates in Small Business Saturday.

Circare, 23024 Greater Mack Ave., participates in Small Business Saturday.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Small Business Saturday a big deal in St. Clair Shores

Local owners ‘gratified’ by community support

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 22, 2021

 Small businesses like Party Adventure, 23400 Greater Mack Ave., have longevity in the community. Party Adventure has been in St. Clair Shores for 39 years.

Small businesses like Party Adventure, 23400 Greater Mack Ave., have longevity in the community. Party Adventure has been in St. Clair Shores for 39 years.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 A shopper peruses the ornaments at Circare.

A shopper peruses the ornaments at Circare.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — More than half the money spent in locally owned independent stores returns to the community, and local business owners say that’s something to celebrate.

“We provide jobs for people locally. We provide products you can’t find everywhere,” said Ken Meldrum, owner of Bulk Food Marketplace, 21514 Harper Ave., in St. Clair Shores.

The owners and employees at family-run companies have a stake in the community, said Dan Stevens of Party Adventure, 23400 Greater Mack Ave., which has been in St. Clair Shores for 39 years.

“We actually live in the area. All the people who work here, just about, live in St. Clair Shores or the surrounding area,” he said. “We care about the area. We offer more personalized service than you can get at the box stores.”

According to The 3/50 Project, which works to support and save local brick and mortar businesses, for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other spending. The same amount spent in a national chain keeps $43 in the local community, but if it’s spent at a large online retailer, none of that money stays in the community.

The pandemic moved a lot of shopping online, but Gloria Kinne, the owner of Circare, 23024 Greater Mack Ave., said that customers are returning to support independent businesses now.

“Now that people are moving around a little bit more, I think — at least my customers — a lot of people are much more aware of how small, independent businesses have struggled, and I think ... as many people have gone online, almost as many people are making an effort to shop small and shop local,” she said. “A lot of small independents are having very strong sales, which helped make up for 2020. We are actually doing quite well. I’m comparing my numbers (and), we’re barely down from 2019.

“It’s very gratifying.”

Local business owners say the challenges they face this year include keeping shelves stocked due to problems with the supply chain.

“We have to look through multiple vendors to try to find some of the same products now, and you don’t know when you’re going to get it,” Meldrum said. “Especially this time of year, you have to stay a month or two ahead.”

The pandemic began a baking trend that he doesn’t see going away anytime soon. While it might not be difficult to find common foodstuffs, specialty items might be harder to get.

“Some companies are reducing their product line because of the times. They’re concentrating on a few products instead of a number of products,” he said. “There used to be a candy manufacturer that probably had 10 items and now they’re only doing like four ... so some of the things that people looked for in the past, they might not find because the manufacturer isn’t making them right now.”

Stevens said his store has had difficulty getting and keeping popular inventory in stock. Even on items that he can order, he is paying at least triple the freight cost he paid before.

As much as he doesn’t want to, he said, “You have to pass it on, or you’ll be out of business.”

This year, traditional decorations are the most popular, as are party poppers and confetti cannons.

“Last year, people weren’t buying,” he said. “This year, we’re finding out (that) when they’re having a party, they’re doing it up. We had a great Halloween. We’re expecting the same for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s.”

Kinne said Circare is in a better position to weather the supply chain issues than some other stores because much of what she carries is made in the U.S. Regardless, she’s still experiencing some delays.

“A lot of my American artists, a lot of them are experiencing problems getting components. They’re having issues with help, too. A lot of things are delayed, but we’ve been able to respond pretty well to that,” she said.

Some items, like gift bags and boxes, are harder to order in specific designs, but overall, she said her customers are learning to “roll with the punches.”

“If I don’t have this item to sell them because they’re out of stock or back ordered, we have a lot of other beautiful things,” she said. “We’re making it work, and I’m looking forward to a very strong holiday season. Small Business Saturday is a huge part of that.”

Over the years, Kinne said, that day has become the store’s best sales day of the year.

“If they have a favorite small store, they really make an effort to support (it) that day, and it’s been marvelous,” she said.

The small business movement began before the pandemic, but Kinne said she thinks all of the shutdowns have brought the importance of community retailers to the forefront for many people.

“If they’re comfortable coming out, they’re coming out small,” she said.

Small business owners can be trusted to take the necessary health and safety precautions, she said.

“We’re still wearing masks. We want every customer that comes in ... we want them to be comfortable,” she said. “I think they trust small business more. As well as caring for them, they trust us to keep themselves safe and keep everyone safe.”

The importance of small businesses to the community comes down to this, Stevens said: “Better service and just caring about the neighborhood.”

“We’ll donate to different groups that come in from the area and give special discounts to schools and different charities,” he continued. “We’ve been raising money for Make-a-Wish. All that money stays in Michigan.”

He said they appreciate the support of the local shopping and business community, including the 9-Mack Merchants Association, now coined Downtown St. Clair Shores.

“It seems like every year, it gets a little better,” he said. “We have a real good group of entrepreneurs that are sticking together and trying to help each other.”

Steve Beskange has had decades to see the benefits of small business. His father opened Opal’s Hallmark, 24311 Harper Ave., in 1955. Beskange grew up in the business and has now owned it for 44 years.

“The one thing that stands out above the rest are the employees that we have are there to help you,” he said. The advice and assistance they offer saves shoppers time at the store, he added.

“Being that we’re right in the neighborhood, and we’ve been there for a long time, I think that’s what we have to offer, is that personal service,” he said.

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