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February 8, 2008     Cape Gazette
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February 8, 2008
 

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CAPE GAZETTE - Friday, February 8 - Monday, February 11, 2008 - 35 BtISINESS & REAL ESTATE - f The Canal Shops in the Lewes Ice Plant. close Location, sporadic sales, end venture By Henry J. Evans Jr. Cape Gazette staff It was an idea that has worked in many places. Transform an old nianufacmring or production plant into an array of retail spaces where merchants, artists and crafts people sell and display their products and work. The Artists' Market and Studios in the old Lewes Ice Plant was a two-year attempt to do just that. At the end of last year the market, renamed The Canal Shops, closed its doors. "We just didn't make it. We did- n't get the numbers. We thought it would be a great location for local artists to display their things and for local people to shop," said Judy Heatly, a partner who helped start the business and made a deci- sion to close it in December. "We were very sad to close it down. The sad part wasn't for me, it was for the merchants I had to tell would have to leave," she said. Heatly said there were eight businesses and about 40 consign- ment sellers in The Canal Shops portion of the ice plant when it closed. She said several of those Henry J. Evans Jr. photo The Canal Shops in the old Lewes Ice Plant closed in December. Partners in The Canal Shops divided the ice plant's interior into nearly a dozen smaller spaces where merchts and artists sold and displayed their goods and works. Slow sales and rising costs forced the closure. businesses have found new loca- tions. Heatly said operating costs and extended periods of slow business for merchants were among rea- sons for closing. She also said the ice plant, on New Road just off Pilottown Road, is too far from Lewes' downtown business core. "I think some it was because of location. We just didn't have enough traffic coming down New Road," said Heady. But even so, she said when spe- cial events were held in the city, and when the Lewes Farmers' Market temporarily setup in the ice plant parking lot last summer, business was good. "Whenever there were special events, sales were huge and huge numbers of people were drawn into the building, and when they came in they bought. We were excited and we thought that would help us," she said. She said after a change in busi- ness partners about a year ag 0, a decisiori was made t-o change the name from Artists' Market and Studios to The Canal Shops because so much more than just art was being offered. From vintage clothing to antiques, handmade furniture to organic baked goods, The Canal Shops had something for every- one. Gail Jones, owner of S.I.P.'S Barkery, a shop selling all-natural pet treats and other pet products, said the ice plant location had worked well for her business. "It was a good place to start. We developed a good customer base," said Jones. She saidS.I.P.'S had been in the ice plant just short of two years. Jones said Barkery customers have been eager for her to settle in a new location so they can once again buy special treats for their pets. The ice plant, which is in an area zoned industrial, probably isn't the optimum spot for retail sales, Heady said. "Some type of light-industrial business like a printing shop might be good there, but not retail," she said Heady said since closing, she's started developing an internet business where customers would be able to purchase the same range of products - perhal. :! some of the same merchant were offered at the ice plant, "It'll be retail but with low overhead," she said. Contact Henry J. Evans Jr at hevans @ capegazette, com. Does it matter how employees feel about customers? I confess. When I'm waiting at a red light, I avidly read vanity license plates and try to determine what those "catchy little conglom- erations Of letters mean to some- one other than the owner of the vehicle. Recently, I read a bumper sticker that fascinated me because of its relationship to customer service. Here's what it said: "The more people I come across, the more I .like my dog." The bad news is that if any of your employees are thinking this, verbalizing it, or worse, acting upon it, you have a major problem within the entire organization. The first step in an employee attitude adjustment is communi- caring to your employees what exactly is expected of them. You're not in business to deliver OK service. Your competitor can do that. You're in business to deliver knock-their-socks-off customer service. Implementing a one-sen- tence mission statement that everyone can understand and carry out is a good start. Get them involved; ask them for suggestions about a company slo- gan that describes what your organization is all about. Tell FINANCE Anna Athas them the customer is always right, even if they're wrong. An employee will never win an argu- ment - just lose the customer. By the way, there's always that 1 per- cent of customers who are stinkers and can never be won over, but you have to run your business for the. 99 percent of good, honest customers who will tell other peo- ple about you. I'll never forget what an admin- istrative assistant to a vice presi- dent of a large corporation told me during a training session I was conducting. She said: "Before I start my computer every morning, I make myself a promise .that I will refrain from using the word 'no' today." I guess you could say she had a personal mission state- ment that worked for her and her customers. Consider the hospital dietitian who listened to a very cranky patient complain about the hospi- tal food, and his fondest wish was to eat some asparagus in cream sauce. Since this dish was not exactly an everyday staple in the hospi- tal's kitchen, this woman put on her coat and drove to the nearest supermarket, brought back the ingredients, prepared them and presented this man with asparagus and cream sauce for lunch. That's exceeding the customer's expecta- tions'for sure. Instead of throwing up her hands in exasperation, she adjusted her attitude, satisfied the customer and went home that evening with a feeling of accom- plishment. Part of attitude adjustment is to feel empowered, and that lowers stress levels, which allows employees to experience job satis- faction. When your employees see the customer as the person who sends them on vacation, buys their next car and makes theft mortgage payments, that's progress. They'll smile more, be more helpful and solve problems, thereby encouraging your cus- tomers to come back and again and again. A positive attitude, like a smile, is catching. It perpetuates itself so that everyone in the organization becomes infected. In customer service, we refer to gaining or losing a customer as a moment of truth. We all have hundreds of moments of truth dur- ing our business day. Moments of truth are presented to us at every turn: on the phone, in person, over the intemet - however we commu- nicate. Sometimes a customer will come in contact with one of your employees for approximately five seconds. Have your employees lost or gained a customer in that short period of time? Were they kind or curt? Were they smiling or frowning? Were they listening or turning off the customer? Were they helping or hindering? Were they sharing information Or with- holding it? Personally, I will not go back to an establishment where the employees have that I-don't-give- a-dam look, can't answer a ques- tion, won't try to find an answer for me or are talking with their co- workers about their personal lives while I'm trying to get their atten- tion. Most people are like me: They don't complain but never go back to where they were made to feel less than important. That's lethal for any business. So if sales are slipping, people- traffic is dwindling, complaints are increasing and the bottom line is lower than a snake's belly, you might have an employee attitude problem that needs fixing. Of course, there's so much more to customer and employee satisfaction, but if you truly believe the phrase: Take care of your employees, and they'll take care of your customers, then you're on your way to improving overall business in your organiza- tion and creating a corporate cul- ture that positively effects profits. Remember: A bad attitude by just one employee" at any given moment can be disastrous to your reputation, but a happy workforce with an excellent attitude can send an organization to new heights. Ann Athas is an seasoned serv- ice excellence trainer and presi- dent of inspirespeak. She can be reached at 947-2091 or www.inspirespeak.com.