The guy many dub as “Mr. South Pasadena” is encouraging residents to “shop local” during the holiday season.
It’s all part of the city’s economic development effort and the Chamber of Commerce’s push for residents to make purchases in their hometown.
“We really want to promote businesses here,” explained John Vandercook, owner of Reimagine Your Home, which specializes in flooring and windows coverings at 1518 Mission St. “So, we wanted to put a theme around our holiday party this year.”
To kick off the shopping season, Vandercook recently opened his doors to the shop and invited friends, family, customers and a number of neighboring business owners while asking the latter to donate a raffle item representing their store. As part of the festivities, business cards were drawn out of a hat and lucky winners received gifts from nearby stores along Mission St.
“It’s a way of connecting small businesses with people who may not of been to that store before,” explained Vandercook, a respected voice in the community who contributes countless volunteer hours to a myriad of projects, organizations and activities around town.
When he talks, people listen. Vandercook called the get-together at his store “a small business holiday party” as guests were treated to wine, appetizers and good cheer.
Boutiques and small stores like Reimagine Your home find themselves competing for the local dollar against the EBAY’s and Amazon’s of the world and, admittedly, Vandercook says it’s not easy.
Holiday parties and friendly smiles are essential nowadays for businesses the size of Reimagine Your Home. Strategies must be in place to fend off the Internet enterprises and big box retailers. “The only way small brick and mortar stores like mine can survive is to not only provide quality products but to give great service to customers,” he said. “If people come into a small establishment where they feel like they are developing a relationship, feel comfortable, it makes all the difference. People deal with people, not products. If you can develop that one-on-one relationship with customers, 90% of the time you’ll win.”
Vandercook stressed it is important “to connect with small business neighbors to help each other.”
By getting to know one another, Vandercook said storeowners and employees are in a position to recommend products at neighborhood stores. “I can tell a customer that the business across the street has what you’re looking for because I know what that store sells,” he explained, noting it can mean the difference in keeping the dollars in town or losing it to an internet enterprise or big box retailer.
“Whether you’re selling floor and window coverings like me, or toys at Dinosaur Farm, gifts at Retreat or frames at Mission Frames, we all value that you have to give great customer service,” said Vander cook. “It’s all about developing relationships with people who are your customers.”
Vander cook says 85 percent of those purchasing products from his store are either repeat or referral customers.
And to that, Vander cook is extremely thankful. “We really appreciate the people who have supported us over the years.”