Small Business Saturday in Woodbridge

Taylor McCarthy tunes up a recently purchased bike in the workshop at Village Skis & Bikes. / © HopkinsPhotos

Saturday, Nov. 27 — It’s “Small Business Saturday” today across the country. If you’ve watched any TV leading up to this Thanksgiving weekend or listened to the radio, you’ve probably heard the promotions for it. Sponsored by American Express, it’s their attempt to place the focus for one day across the country on independent, local businesses. And, of course, that’s going on right here in Woodbridge, Va., as well.

We visited some small businesses on this “Small Business Saturday” and spoke to local, independent business owners, like Jim Haugan of Village Skis & Bikes and Terry Quinn of Quinn’s Goldsmith.

Mr. Haugan has been running his shop in Lake Ridge since 1984. He’s been involved with bikes and skis since he was 14 years old. His shop is located in a corner of the Festival at Old Bridge shopping center on Dillingham Square off Old Bridge Road near the SunTrust Bank building.

Village Skis & Bikes owner Jim Haugan helps a couple customers at his shop on Saturday. / © HopkinsPhotos

He welcomed the focus on the smaller, independent businesses that really are the engine of the nation’s economy and compared businesses like his to the “big-box” or chain stores that are so pervasive. “I think there is a big misconception that [customers] are going to have this great savings by going to a big-box store. There may be some small savings on the short end, but in the long run, most of the time, you go into a box store, a chain-type store, and it’s pretty much self-serve.”

He sees customers who seek out the expertise, experience and even longevity of a shop like his Village Skis & Bikes shop.

Jake Shortt, a manager at Village Skis & Bikes in Lake Ridge, waxes a snowboard in the back of the shop. / ©HopkinsPhotos

“You know people come to our shop, I think, specifically because we are a small business and more customer focused,” Mr. Haugan said. “And also being a specialty-type shop, they’re more comfortable that they’re going to get put in the right product.”

He looks to stay competitive in pricing with the chain stores or even other independent store competitors, but his primary focus is on service.

“You come into a shop like ours, and you’re going to get that one-on-one service, you’re going to see that same person year after year and you know you’re going to be sized correctly; and therefore, you’re going to have more fun with the product that you buy here,” he said. “And basically, we’re here to sell fun. I mean, if you come into a ski and bike shop and you’re not buying fun, I don’t know what you’re buying. But there have been pricing studies, and we’ve been consistently rated as having very competitive prices, whether it be versus box stores or other specialty stores.”

And he made a very good case on this “Small Business Saturday” for that combined value of competitive pricing with service strategy focus of his. While one of his employees tuned up a bike someone had just bought before delivering it to them, Mr. Haugan talked about how an independent shop like his ultimately can save customers money while at the same time offering superior service.

“I had a customer just last week where they probably spent, in the first couple months of ownership of the bike they bought online, another $50 more than if they had bought the same bike from us. [Customers] buy something online and maybe saved a few bucks on the short end, but by the time you figure in the cost of the service, the labor — if you buy something from a shop like ours, the services are discounted — now the savings are almost negligible and in many cases, you’ve spent more. In the case of a bike, by the time they do the servicing, and we provide free adjustments after the sale, you take into account the cost of that tuneup and so on, now they end up spending more money.”

Village Skis & Bikes in Lake Ridge at Festival at Old Bridge on Dillingham Square. / © HopkinsPhotos

Terry Quinn, owner of Quinn’s Goldsmith, on Union Street in Occoquan spoke similarly of his shop’s dedication to customer service.

“I think that independent small businesses have a better mentality for servicing their customers than a big-box store that just wants to deal with price and says, ‘See you later.’ ”

One of those big-box stores here in Woodbridge that Quinn’s Goldsmith competes with is the biggest jewelry distributor in the world, according to Mr. Quinn. “They sell more jewelry than anyone else in the world. But their 70% off of a $200 chain is about $50. And the exact same chain in my store is $36. Everyday. So I don’t play the game of 400-500% markup. I’m making a living, I don’t make a killing. I’m in business to — as my parents said — ‘We’re in business to serve the public.’ Everybody’s supposed to be here to create happiness and to serve others.”

Terry Quinn, center, talks with one of his sales representatives and a customer in his Occoquan shop on Saturday. / © HopkinsPhotos

And although Quinn’s Goldsmith is an independent small business, Mr. Quinn’s focus on the customer is anything but small.

“We have several goldsmiths on the premises — four, actually. We also have several appraisers and diamond certificate recipients, people who are actually educated in the field. So when you come in you can actually get true information. And we don’t try to sell you something in a case, we try to serve you. So if I need to fix something or need to match it, we’ll do that rather than try to push you to buy something else. We’re looking to capture a customer for life.”

They’re doing quite well with that goal, as Mr. Quinn notes that he has 27,000 names on his mailing list now. The jewelry store just celebrated its 20th anniversary of being in business and Mr. Quinn is overseeing the opening of a second store, Quinn’s Goldsmith II, in the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center shopping area where Wegmans is located. He’s hopeful about his expansion. The jewelry store has seen a dip in business over the past couple years, but has seen a resurgence this year.

“In 2008 we had a drop, in 2009 it dropped even worse — to about a third of our entire business [previously]. It was a huge drop. The end of 2009 it started to come back, and then in 2010 we’ve been up nine of the 11 months. It’s not all the way back to where it was, but it definitely is back to being healthy and not having to wonder if I can pay the bills.”

Reza Sadeghi, repair shop manager for Quinn's, works on a wax mold. / © HopkinsPhotos

He’s hoping the new store will give him more visibility in an area that draws a lot of traffic. Mr. Quinn has done a lot with marketing, both in the traditional sense of getting out into the advertising arena, but also in a variety of other ways as well. And they’re the kind of things that distinguish his independent business from the larger chains out there. “We send out birthday cards and anniversary cards, and if [our customers] refer us to other people, then we send them gift certificates for Outback Steakhouse or things like that, just as a thank you.”

And throughout the month of December, Quinn’s will give away a 50” plasma TV every single Wednesday in a drawing. It’s his way of trying to give back to the men who come into the store with their partners. “It’s for men, because men don’t get jewelry,” he said with a smile. But he gives back in other ways as well. More significant, and from the heart. Over the past 10 years he’s raised over $250,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And it’s a very personal dedication to the cause. “When I was married, we lost a child, and I couldn’t help her, so we thought we could help other children. So I try to raise money every year.”

You’ll find that small businesses do that — help out where and when they can. Village Skis & Bikes helped the NOVA BMX group when they were constructing the track at the Prince William Stadium Complex and through rider support. Quinn’s dedicates time, effort and money for Make-A-Wish. “The little guys, we give back to the community,” says Mr. Quinn.

If you haven’t seen the promotions around Small Business Saturday, take a look at this video from American Express:

At Woodbridge Living, we’re all about supporting small businesses. We’re a local small business ourselves. Just check out the “right rail” on this WoodbridgeLiving.com page, and you’ll see a number of area small businesses who advertise with us — Imag-Designs, Amici’s Restaurante, Face Odyssey, Hopkins Photos, Warpath Magazine, Portraits by Glenda — all these local businesses are part of our Woodbridge Living Family of Advertisers.

We also like to research and write about local small businesses, particularly restaurants. For example, take a look at some of these reviews of area restaurants that are not part of national chains: Shanghai Cafe, Almita’s, Chada Thai, Siam Bistro and Amici’s. We’ve highlighted the Dale City Farmers Market and Potomac Point Winery — two incredibly vibrant local small business fronts.

Come back often to WoodbridgeLiving.com for the latest local business updates.

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