Pictured is the interior of Life in the Craft Room LLC. in Farmington Hills. Small businesses can play a big role in helping to support local economies.

Pictured is the interior of Life in the Craft Room LLC. in Farmington Hills. Small businesses can play a big role in helping to support local economies.

Photo provided by Life in the Craftroom

Farmington Hills residents encouraged to shop local on ‘Small Business Saturday’

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published November 21, 2022

 Watchbands Plus in Farmington Hills is among the businesses that can benefit from Small Business Saturday, which began in 2010 as an effort to encourage people to support local business establishments.

Watchbands Plus in Farmington Hills is among the businesses that can benefit from Small Business Saturday, which began in 2010 as an effort to encourage people to support local business establishments.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


FARMINGTON HILLS — Running a successful business has likely never been an easy task, but in recent years things have become even more challenging for many local business owners.

Factors such as national online competitors, employee and supply chain shortages, as well as inflation have created a unique set of obstacles for entrepreneurs to try to overcome.

However, a national promotion is attempting to encourage people to take an old-fashioned approach when shopping for goods and services.

In 2010, American Express originated what is known as Small Business Saturday, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving and encourages consumers to shop at and support small businesses in their local communities.

The date for Small Business Saturday this year is Nov. 26.

Robert Corlin has owned Watchbands Plus in Farmington Hills since 2015.

His establishment, which is located on Orchard Lake Road, specializes in watch and clock repair, as well as the sale of watches and watch bands.

Like so many, Corlin has had to deal with supply chain shortages.

“The supplier that I get my watch bands from, the largest manufacturer in the United States, has trouble with their factories,” he said. “I have to go out to other companies that I hadn’t had to deal with before, but we still have lots. We carry over 10,000 brands in the shop at any one time.”

Inflation has also proved to be a challenge.

“In my purchasing of items, I’ve seen it,” Corlin said. “I’ve tried not to pass it along. I only pass it along when I absolutely have to. … I’ve seen it a lot in the getting of stuff – in mailing, in transportation; that’s where a lot of it has come in.”

Despite those obstacles, Watchbands Plus has survived.

“Things are pretty good, even through COVID, when we had the mandatory shutdown, I would go into work every day. I’m a one-man show; I’m the only one there. … We’ve been pretty steady the whole time.”

General manager Kimberly Vallance and her mother co-own Life in the Craft Room LLC, located in the Heartland Marketplace on West 12 Mile Road in Farmington Hills.

The business has been open for eight months.

“Half of the store is the Mi Artisan Market … the other half is where we teach hands-craft classes – fabric, paint, yarn … pretty much everything,” Vallance said. “You don’t have to buy your supplies here to take a class. … It’s a place where crafters come to either sell their artwork or to enjoy the environment and possibly learn new things.”

Vallance has been more fortunate than some other business owners.

“Inflation, no, I wouldn’t say I’ve seen an impact here in my business,” she said. “I’ve seen it at the grocery store, but I haven’t seen it impact here in the craft room. … I haven’t seen supply shortages, but I have seen deliveries take a whole lot longer, like almost double the amount of time they used to take.”

Vallance considers her primary role at Life in the Craft Room to be that of a teacher, and if things continue to go the way they have, a lot more people may have the opportunity to learn from her.

“We’ve been doing really well,” she said. “We’ve picked up every month.”

Local chambers of commerce have been a resource for business owners for many years.

Suzanne Levine is the executive director of the Greater West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, and she discussed some of the ways local businesses can gain an edge in the current market.

“We know that they can’t compete with an Amazon, or perhaps even a TJ Maxx, but they could offer free coffee; they could have a senior day,” Levine said. “There are other things they could offer – perhaps delivering some of the merchandise to people’s homes. So there is different ways that they could offer services that beat some of the other large box chains.”

Levine added that Oakland County is another “huge resource for businesses, and it’s free.”

Oakland County’s website is oak.gov.

For businesses that are struggling to find employees, Levine offered a potential solution.

The Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield helps train special needs individuals for employment, and she is of the opinion that it could be a viable option for local business owners.

“This is a great, untapped resource for some of these businesses, like the supermarkets – they can train them to bag groceries,” Levine said. “There are things these individuals can do, and then they feel great about themselves and you’re helping not only your business, but an individual that wants to work and be productive.”

Corlin said he does “nothing through the internet,” preferring instead to operate the way the majority of businesses have over the course of history.

“I like the storefronts,” he said. “I like doing it in person. You get to touch, feel and see what you’re getting.”

From Corlin’s perspective, having what is perhaps a modern-day niche can help set Watchbands Plus apart.

“Not a lot (of) people do watch and clock repair, so we’re very big on that end,” he said.

One of Vallance’s aspirations for Life in the Craftroom is to hire at least one employee.

“That (would) be fun and great, and free me up to teach more things or work on my own crafts, and in general, enjoy life,” she said. “Currently, I don’t have any employees; I have a couple independent contractors that teach classes. … In March, I hope to hire somebody part time.”

For Vallance, being co-owner of Life in the Craftroom is more than merely a way to earn a living.

“I was very sick for the last four years, and … in the course of six months my health improved at an unbelievable rate,” she said. “I feel better now than I have in 20 years. It’s a joy to come in here every day. Even when I have done something that was physically difficult and I go home sore and tired, I still get to smile because I’m coming in the next day (to) do it all over again, to teach somebody.”

Levine described small, local businesses as the “backbone of our economy.”

“We have to remember that, because especially in times of need, they have been there to service us – we need to make sure that they survive and thrive,” she said. “They pay taxes, employ people, and they offer different merchandise and services that we might not be able to find elsewhere. … I’m a big proponent of shopping at some of our stores, especially during the holiday season. I think it’s really important, and maybe you’ll spend a few more dollars, but you won’t spend it in gas driving around.”

Corlin offered his rationale for shopping locally.

“Keep the little stores in business,” he said. “The holidays are coming up, and check out the little stores first. You may be surprised.”

To learn more about Corlin’s business, visit watchbandsplus.com.

Aside from business owners, Vallance shared an example of other individuals who can benefit when residents spend their money locally.

“Shopping local doesn’t just mean the brick and mortars, it also means your delivery drivers – the people who deliver groceries or a meal,” she said. “In this country, they are quite often not making minimum wage, and the only way they make a living … is through tips. So, be really aware of that. … Come in, shop local and use local, but also be considerate.”

To learn more about Vallance’s business, visit lifeinthecraftroom.com.

Call Staff Writer Mark Vest at (586) 498-1052.