Chicago is a prime location for hundreds of unique retailers, and I find myself lucky to get to explore them on a regular basis.
One of my favorite places to set up shop for getting some work done is Heritage General Store.
From the outside window displays, it looks like a bike store, but the first thing you see when you walk in the door is a large café.
Throughout the coffee area, you’ll find the shop’s vintage-inspired bikes. Then there’s a workshop in the back and apparel in a nearby area.
The baristas work side-by-side with bike mechanics — a handful of them even do both!
When I asked Heritage’s owner if it’s more of a bike store or a coffee shop, he said that it depends on whom you ask.
I’d say it’s a workspace, but the people I see designing their custom rides or getting their bikes tuned up would probably have a different answer.
Either way, both components of the business work together for the community and for their customers.
There’s something to be said for focusing on one thing in particular and doing it great instead of trying a lot of things and being mediocre at them all — and I’m confident some industry consultants would agree.
When it comes to garden centers, I’ve heard everything from success to outsourcing to failure with cafés. This could be the result of execution or simply what your area wants and needs.
Flip to page 12 to read about The Windsor Gardener, whose owners Amanda and Pat Weakland started testing a market with a home brewery section in the garden center.
They now have found new profits with High Hops Brewery, a new part of the business that’s very closely integrated with the garden center.
Wealth of Knowledge
A lot of the staff at High Hops Brewery and The Windsor Gardener work in both the garden center and the tasting room. My initial thought is that you really have to have the right people to make that successful.
As you all know, it can be hard enough to find people strictly in the garden center.
Turn to “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking” by Maria Zampini on page 44. Here you’ll learn about some apps and other resources that can help educate your employees.
What role can technology play in educating your customers and getting across your message? “The Tech Advantage” on page 16 highlights ways to project a common voice using everything from your website to an in-store kiosk.
Don’t forget to make it all the way to the back of the issue where you’ll find this month’s Outside the Vines column about excellent customer service at a pet store.
Just like with Heritage General Store, some great ideas can come from outside of the industry.