Beyond brick and mortar: Online sales can be key to keeping small town businesses viable

December 2017 Posted in Business, Community

Glenn Klecker and Amanda DeDona in the shipping area of Klecker Knives (3)By Melissa Wagoner

Many small businesses rely both on brick and mortar storefronts and online marketing to stay viable. Klecker Knives in Silverton is no exception.

“Small businesses in a small town have to diversify to make their sales,” Amanda DeDona, chief operations officer for Klecker Knives in Silverton explained. “You can’t just rely on foot traffic alone to make your sales.”

Glenn Klecker, who has been designing knives and tools for 20 years, moved from his basement workshop to a storefront on Oak Street two years ago to gain more space and to interact more with his community.

“I made a conscious decision to park my butt in the middle of town rather than having a warehouse,” he said. “For the first year and a half the foot traffic almost paid the rent.”

Nicholas Cofey, owner of Astonishing Adventures, a collectible store in Silverton, had a similar beginning, also starting out online. Today he owns an eBay Anchor Store, an Amazon.com bookstore and a Comic Book Collector Live store amounting to over 100,000 items listed for sale at any one time, but last year he felt compelled to also open a storefront for his operation.

“I love the town and the people here in Silverton, so I could easily quit my online sales if I were to generate enough income from just the brick and mortar Silverton location,” Cofey said.

However, only about 50 percent of Astonishing Adventures’ current income is generated by the storefront, so Cofey will not be shutting down his online operations any time soon.  That doesn’t bother him.

“I think if you’re not doing online sales during the down time you’re doing it wrong,” he said. “There is plenty of down time during unpleasant weather etc., so you should have time to list things online to generate extra income.”

Laurie Carter, owner of Silverton’s Apples to Oranges yarn and gift Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 11.33.22 AM
shop agrees.

“I always knew that I needed to get online if I wanted to make a success here,” she said. “It just gives me a whole other dimension.”

Carter, who currently handles about 20 percent of her sales online, said that she expects that number to increase but
that there will always be a need for a physical shop.

“People love coming in to the shop and being able to sit and knit and feel the yarn,” Carter explained.

“This is a real great place for new people coming to Silverton to meet people.”

Klecker agreed adding, “It’s comfortable and friendly, it’s not big business.”  For Klecker Knives developing a personal relationship with a loyal customer base is what drives their business. “It’s a unique product,” DeDona said. “There’s nothing out there on the market like it.”

Klecker agreed, “Everything we have is something that nobody has done before. It’s the outside the box thinking that makes them unique.”

Because of this individuality Klecker has been able to rely on word of mouth to get the word out about his established products and social media Kickstarter Campaigns to start the ball rolling about new ones.

He thinks that the same things that motivates customers to buy from people in their own community makes Kickstarter a successful place for innovators like himself to get new ideas off the ground.

“You’re supporting a maker,” he said. “Also, for us being small it’s still helpful to have an initial big order.”

Newly opened Sin-able Sweets is also using online efforts to get their business off the ground. They market and ship their dietetic sweets around the country.

“Right now, about 20 percent of our sales are online, but we are starting to actively market our online sales to increase that percentage,” owner Dan Clements said.

Clements thinks these online efforts will not only help keep his bakery’s doors open but also help the local economy.

“Online sales can help a small town like Mount Angel in many respects,” he said. “As the business grows, they can help with employment in the city, adding to the tax base. With our business, we hope our mail order/online customers come and visit so they can see about
Mount Angel and what it has to
offer for fun and recreation.”

Carter, too, likes the idea that she is helping her community stay vibrant.

“My original purpose in opening the
shop is I hated to see downtown emptying out,” she said. “In that I
think I’ve done a really good job and
I feel confident that it’s going to be here for 10 more years at least.”

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