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Cheri Clark of Chéri Amour.
Cheri Clark of Chéri Amour.

Small Business Saturday profile: Chéri Amour

by jmaloni
Sat, Nov 23rd 2019 07:00 am

Small Business Saturday shines spotlight on local merchants

Shop small, shop local, shop Lewiston

By Joshua Maloni

Managing Editor

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.

You’re busy.

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.

Consider:

•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.

Chéri Amour

522 Center St.

A hotel industry worker by trade, Cheri Clark never imagined a life in retail.

On a whim, “We brought in Nomination Italian charms that were very popular out west, but no one was doing it on the East Coast,” she said. “And my sister (Janeanne Winberg), who I’m in business with, lived in Reno and saw this raging trend. We thought, ‘Well, let’s just open a little store,’ and that’s why we chose the size of Chéri Amour, because we didn’t need anything big.

“We thought we would just sell the charms, and do the trend, and maybe have my mother work here. We never knew that I’d be here 17 years later. … It was all meant to be.”

Over the years, “We have grown little by little,” Clark said. “Little by little we moved back. A little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. Got another (jewelry) case. Because, after Nomination, then we got Pandora. And then after Pandora, we had Alex and Ani. And now we have Kendra Scott – and always looking for the next great thing.”

Though she didn’t have any expectations when opening, Clark said, “I found my niche.”

“I love it; and I love what I do,” she said. “I’m happy every day. And my customers are my friends, after 17 years – a lot of them have been with me that long. They are like family more than even friends, and I’m very, very blessed. I love coming to work. I don’t call it work. I call it my shop. And it’s a whole different thing.”

Clark knows her products are available online, but “shopping small – shopping local – is knowing your customer and what your customer wants,” she said. “And that’s why I’m constantly changing, constantly changing, and staying with the trends, trying to keep my customers up to date, but keeping classics that are loved. And, you know, making it easy for my women who come in, or for my men who, when the women come in, I make a mental note or write it down, what they were looking at. And (I) can help the men when they come in – know what they want, their wife likes, girlfriend likes.”

She explained, “The whole difference of buying online and walking into a shop (is), when you walk into a shop, you get an experience. And it’s up to that shop to give that experience.

“I like to think that I give an experience when you come in the shop.

“Not only do you have a personal connection, but you get to try things on. You get to see, touch and feel. It’s not just ordering it. Even myself, when I have to order things, they don’t look like they look when I’m ordering them. When they come, I send them back, because I don’t even like them to sell. So, I can’t imagine ordering something, and having to keep it, because a lot of people don’t send back their stuff; it’s more of a problem.

“I think that’s the main thing about shopping small is your relationships, is your interaction with your customer. And, you know, having that tactile touch and feel. That’s why everything’s available.”

Available and, on Nov. 30, discounted, as well.

“It’s such a fun time on Small Business Saturday, because the people are so happy to be here,” Clark added. “And the people are your customers you know and love, and they’re so happy to come in and shop small. They’re thanking for me for being here, and then you’re thanking them for coming in, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

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