NAPERVILLE, Ill. – Barely 18 months ago – on the verge of the greatest economic collapse since 1929 – Gary Domzalski and Dennis Hull dared to be different. They decided to expand their 10-year-old antiques business and move to a space four times its current size.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Hull said. “We signed our lease on Sep. 5, 2008, and one week later, the stock market nearly collapsed.”
While many neighbors and friends thought the two had lost their minds, Domzalski and Hull knew they were on to something big. Fueled largely by a passion for their work, excellent dealers and employees and a love for their customers, the two have already reached the $1 million sales mark less than a year after opening at their new location in “uptown” Naperville on Jan. 30, 2009.
“We’re constantly asked how we did it,” says Domzalski, “and we’re very open to sharing our secrets for what they’re worth.”
Secret #1: Pick the best location.
Leaving the downtown area was key. Rents in excess of $40 per square foot were too high for their business. Parking became non-existent. Our new space is less than half of our old cost with 14 dedicated parking spots. Traffic count matters, the two said. “Ours is over 80,000 cars per day at the busy Ogden/Naper intersection, less than a quarter mile from I-88.”
Secret #2: Love your business more than your personal life. Put business first, even though your family and friends will not understand. If you are not fully focused, you will fail. Accept that 70-80 hour work weeks are the norm. Learn how to say no to dinner invitations and vacations. There is simply no time.
Your business is not a part-time job. Be there or be broke.
Secret #3: Advertise, promote, walk the walk, talk the talk. There is no such thing as no budget for advertising. Do not treat it as a variable expense. It’s a necessity. If you don’t have the money, borrow it or take a home equity loan. Though it’s difficult to accurately measure, advertising works. You won’t survive a year without it. Augment with Facebook and a killer Web site. Domzalski and Hull get orders from both daily.
Secret #4: Treat your customers as friends. Simply put, if they like you, they will buy from you. If they don’t, they won’t. Greet every customer with a smile and a friendly comment. Don’t ask what they’re looking for unless you want the proverbial “I’m just browsing.” Give them the layout of the store, tell them about your specials and encourage them to have fun. Continually walk the sales floor to be seen when needed by the customer.
Secret #5: Fully empower your employees. The more responsibility they are given, the more business you generate. Employees with true decision-making authority are more trusted by customers and vendors alike and become excellent salespeople. Never ask your employees to do anything you’re not willing to do as owners.
Secret #6: Have fun. Don’t be afraid to laugh often and out loud. Go ahead and dance in the aisles. It’s contagious and a great stress buster. Leave your personal problems at the door and enjoy. It creates what’s known as “good karma” and relaxes the customer, as well, Domzalski and Hull said.
The partners put also work hard to diversify their inventory – that’s what they mean by the words “and more” in the shop’s name. The shop carries greeting cards, candles, nostalgic candy, mid-century modern, gardenware, painted furniture, contemporary artwork and sculpture and furniture care products.
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