Holly Anselmi has owned The Italian Dish in downtown Birmingham for more than 13 years.

Holly Anselmi has owned The Italian Dish in downtown Birmingham for more than 13 years.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Connect with community when you shop local in Birmingham

By: Linda Shepard | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 16, 2018


BIRMINGHAM — The owner of The Italian Dish, Holly Anselmi, comes from a long line of entrepreneurs.

“My grandfather had a roller rink in Waterford,” she said. “My cousins have a business, and my brother is a local attorney. There is a little bit of it in our blood.”

Shoppers, retailers and business analysts are paying more attention to the impact of small businesses as Small Business Saturday approaches Nov. 24. The campaign encourages consumers to buy local from a brick-and-mortar small business.

Local business owners have a unique connection with their customers as important members of the community, Anselmi said.

“I live in Birmingham  and I belong to the Birmingham Shopping District,” she said. “And I am a past member of Women of Tomorrow, which mentors high school girls.”

That’s also a tradition in her family.

“My dad was on the school board,” she said. “We support the schools and pay taxes here, and I employ five women that work here.”

Customers benefit from shopping locally by discovering new and unique items, Anselmi said.

“We have a loyal customer base that is always looking for something new,” she said in her Maple Road store that features Italian pottery, gift and food items, and a wide array of holiday-themed offerings.

Downtown Birmingham gives holiday shoppers a chance to window-shop and enjoy brightly decorated trees.

“People like to walk downtown,” Anselmi said. “We have a Santa Haus in Shain Park and we have a window decorating contest.” The recent renovation of Old Woodward Avenue made it “pedestrian-friendly and easy to navigate, with lots of benches,” she added.

“I’ve been here 13 years,” she said. “We started with imported Italian ceramics and have evolved. Christmas is our biggest season.”

“You don’t know stuff like this exists anymore,” said Nancy Mazurek, who works at The Italian Dish. “I like to see things up close. And you won’t get that personal touch at the mall.”

Anselmi said she applies her “shop local” philosophy personally.

“I think about that when I need makeup or gifts,” she said. “We all like to shop online — it is easy and convenient. But it doesn’t do anything for the local community.”

Joe Ales, the owner of Optik, just down the street on Maple Road, said local merchants challenge themselves to offer something special to their customers. “Now more than ever, you can find more interesting products,” he said.  

His optometry boutique includes a “massive collection of vintage frames,” he said. “I go to Europe and find these companies — independent designers with small factories. I’m known for a crazy collection, and they are all for sale.”

Ales, who belongs to the local chamber of commerce and is a past board member of the merchants association, said shopping local connects you with your own community, “providing for a wonderful living experience,” he said.    

“People can go to New York to find new things,” he said. “But if you give local merchants a chance, you may find a very interesting and cool product.”