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Small Business Saturday shines spotlight on local merchants
Shop small, shop local, shop Lewiston
By Joshua Maloni
Sure, there’s a nobility in shopping local and supporting your neighborhood merchants. Certainly, community and camaraderie can be found when patronizing a local restaurant, picking out gifts at the corner store, or participating in a themed event like the recent Trick-or-Treat Center Street.
In truth, we could sit here and espouse the philosophical benefits of next weekend’s Small Business Saturday – of skipping the national retailers and online marketplaces.
But it’s the holidays.
And someone’s got to put gifts under that tree (after they’re, gulp, wrapped, of course).
Sure, nobility is great. And championing hometown sellers – who wouldn’t want to do that?
Here’s the thing, however: Christmas is only a month away!
You may hear “shop small,” but, if we’re being honest, you’re really thinking QVC – not necessarily the famous TV sell-a-thon, but what it stands for: quality, value, convenience.
Thanks to the ad wizards, you may think QVC is only found on your digital devices or inside a Walmart or Target.
What if we told you that, if you really want quality, value and convenience – and not just cheap and easy – you won’t find it online, on the boulevard, or on channel 159.
QVC is right down the road – on Center Street.
•Lewiston merchants offer quality wares. They’ve painstakingly taken time to research the marketplace and find (or make) handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, won’t-break-when-you-open-the-box products.
•These high-end goods are sold for a reasonable price because, contrary to public belief, not everyone in the 14092 has deep pockets. On Small Business Saturday, many of these items are further discounted.
•Convenience comes, yes, in that the shopping district is walking distance away, but even more so when you can readily find the right gifts. Lewiston storeowners build a bond with customers. Oftentimes, they’ve picked out merchandise and have it on hand prior to a patron’s arrival. They’re on site to give feedback and make sure a dress is the right fit or a charm necklace has the proper settings. This results in fewer trips to return items (which, like fruitcake, is the holiday gift no one ever wants).
So, you could shop online next weekend, or visit a chain store, but here’s the thing: When you click “Add to cart,” your order won’t come with Sara Morreale.
Marleen Brown isn’t selling her wares on the Home Shopping Network.
And it’s highly unlikely you’ll find the guidance of Laura Mann Falsetti, Cheri Clark or the MacKenzies in aisle 4 of the box store.
Simply put: You won’t find their expertise anywhere else. Certainly not on a message board or from a robot responder.
These business owners are uniquely qualified to help you find affordable, unique gifts destined to be cherished for years to come.
Jessica Dolly, left, of Vita Bella Wedding Photography, and Laura Mann Falsetti of Baby & Me.
Baby & Me
335 Center St.
Just how dedicated is You & Me boutique owner Laura Mann Falsetti?
Well, she tackled a pressing customer need while very, very pregnant.
“I was kind of in that walk of life, as I was pregnant with Joey, that I thought, ‘I’ll do Baby & Me and maternity,’ ” Falsetti said. “I did have a little bit of maternity down at You & Me, but just couldn’t ever really find the space for the amount of demand that there was for it. So, I always kind of knew that I wanted to, hopefully one day, expand.”
When Falsetti’s sister, Jessica Dolly, approached her with a plan for a second retail space, “It was kind of perfect timing,” she said. “Well, not really (laughs), because I ended up opening this nine months pregnant. And after opening day, had him two weeks later. So, it was a little crazy!”
Dolly was operating Vita Bella Photography out of 335 Center – once known as the Hollow Mercantile – when “I made a decision to not photograph the kids and families in studio anymore, but still have a space to meet with clients,” she said. “So, I went to my sister and said, ‘Hey, I want to put a bug in your ear. I’m sort of looking for someone to share space with, that would work well with the photography business. I’m only in here like once a week, twice a week, and would love to share it. Do you know anybody looking for anything?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah. Me!’
“She was considering expanding the You & Me line into baby clothing and maternity clothing. I think that it worked out well to keep it in the family.”
While Falsetti was finding success with You & Me, she discovered, “Just in researching, there really isn’t a lot of baby – and more so maternity – boutiques in the area.”
She noticed certain lines popular with new mothers aren’t plentiful in this area. So, she took it upon herself to bring those fashions to Lewiston.
“Most of them are made in the U.S. Very good quality. There was definitely a high demand for that,” she said.
“I think it was more a demand, too, of like modern baby clothing, as well,” Dolly said. “I mean, we all have our traditional lines that we know of, but as far as like a modern spin in the social media era of seeing these little companies come up and advertise themselves in sort of this new, trendy way, and unique and different than what we’re all used to, and Laura sort of picked up on that and said, ‘I want to make that available here.’ ”
Baby & Me opened in May just off the western corner of South Fourth and Center. The boutique offers brands including Posh Peanut and Little Bipsy.
Of the former, Falsetti said, “It’s all bamboo; super soft. It’s just fun, modern prints of onesies and pajamas for children. And then they also carry, when the baby is born, it’s like a little blanket and hat, and then there’s the robe for mom to match for that little picture opportunity. And then they have, of course, some adorable holiday pajamas.”
The latter is “amazing. … It’s cute little hoodies and jogger pants, which is kind of what you see adults and older kids wearing now, and leggings and jeans – cute little baby jeans that are modern,” Falsetti said. “And then there’s also little buffalo check button-down shirts that you would see an adult male wearing, but it’s just really fun and cute to see on younger kids – and it’s not too adult; it’s just fun to see little kids in these kinds of outfits.”
She explained, “I carry, for children, from newborn up to 9-10 years. That expands into a mommy and me line that I have here, where it’s matching outfits for mommy and me. The maternity, which I know from being pregnant, it’s very hard to find flattering maternity clothing – trendy and flattering. I have a little selection of that.
“And then there is a plethora of gift items for baby showers, mostly. We make sure that we’re open on Sundays for the last-minute baby shower gifts people might need to come get.”
“I do carry Banky Girl Creations,” Falsetti said. “She is a Lew-Port graduate, Katie Thurber is her name. She has this line of graphic tees and mugs and glassware that she started off with just one design of #coolmom, and just blew up from there. She’s doing amazing, as well. It’s another local business I like to carry. I’ve been carrying her stuff since day one, in You & Me. But it just made sense, because it’s mom-based, to move it down here to this store.”
Jess Dolly in studio.
Dolly’s business, meanwhile, has transformed into Vita Bella Wedding Photography.
“We continue to service couples getting married from all over WNY,” she said.
Dolly explained, “We photograph around 25 weddings a year at this point, and certainly love it when we have those Lewiston-Youngstown-Ransomville weddings, to really show off the hometown pride again.”
Her services are available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and by appointment.
“I have couples come in and, whether they’re from here or far away, it is nice to be able to bring them into the village, too, if they’re not from here,” Dolly said. “I often recommend a dinner spot, or a shopping spot, after a meeting that we have.”
Whether patrons shop or dine in the village, “I think everything’s just made with a little bit of love,” Dolly said. “I mean, honestly, I think everyone here that has a small business is so passionate about what they do. It’s not just about profit or making money or getting your name out there, it’s literally what people live to do; and so, you can see that represented in what they sell or offer, and their product or service. And when you give that to someone as a gift, you’re really sort of giving this sense of pride in what someone has sold you, or just helped you pick out for someone else.
“Even down to DiCamillo’s cookies. …
“Or bread!” Falsetti said.
“Or bread, right. You can taste the love when you get it as a gift,” Dolly said. “I feel like the quality and pride that people have in their product, here in Lewiston, certainly represents itself when you give that gift to someone.”