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.
Sara Morreale of The Rose Hanger.
The Rose Hanger
480 Center St.
Sara Morreale is fashion personified.
Clearly, she has some sort of background in styling, modeling or design, right?
“I’ve actually been a teacher for 11 years,” she said.
So, how did she become one of the area’s most buzzed-about retailers?
Hard work, long hours … and a little leopard print.
“I’ve always been really into fashion,” Morreale said. “Before I even had this, if you were to see my closet, you probably would have thought I had some kind of crazy shopping addiction!”
She explained, “I’ve always been a little bit out there with the way I dress. And it’s just kind of something I always loved.
“I don’t know. I just figured I always had girls actually saying to me, ‘Oh, where’s your outfit from?’ And I was like, ‘You know what, why can’t your outfit just be me? Instead of it being from some other boutique that I’m telling you I bought it from, I figured I’ll be the one that you buy it from.”
The idea was there, but still more was needed before Morreale felt comfortable operating an actual brick-and-mortar.
“A little over a year ago. I had always had, ‘How I wish that I did this,’ and it would be something I’d be interested in. And my fiancé was kind of my little giant push, I should say, into, ‘If you want to do it, do it.’ So, I started online. And it kind of took off,” she said. “I had girls trying to come to my house and try on clothes, which obviously wasn’t going to work out. So, I looked for a space, and landed something on Center Street, and then it just kind of went from there.”
The Rose Hanger opened inside the Lewiston Opera Hall and, in little time, was the talk of the village.
“I never expected it to become what it is, and be as big as it is, I guess. I really just thought this was going to be a little thing I did on the side,” Morreale said.
Now, while the Opera Hall is a fascinating slice of Lewiston history and construction, it’s also somewhat devoid of show windows – something that’s a must for clothing stores.
“Luckily, I have a really good social media following,” Morreale said. “It was kind of an interesting spot. It was the only place available when I was looking, and I just kind of ran with what I could find. I was actually picturing it being more – at the time – it was just going to be almost like storage, and then I’d have a fitting room. I didn’t expect it to be like a boutique. It was still in my head, not going to that level.
“But the Opera Hall worked, because I had such a strong social media following. The girls knew I existed, but I missed a lot of the foot traffic – like the festivals or just people walking up and down the street. They would look and be like, ‘What is this is? Is it a store?’ People would come in and ask if I was a consignment shop; I mean, they didn’t understand what I was.
“So, it was a tough building to kind of start off in, but I made it work.”
In this case, “it” is not only running a store, but marketing, social media, and building a loyal following.
“It was literally just kind of trial and error for the most part,” Morreale said. “You know, I realized that some things work more than others. None of my educational background had anything to do with marketing, advertising, business or anything. All I know is teaching – I mean, I have two master’s in teaching, but nothing about business. And I’m just kind of running with it and learning as I go.”
Though The Rose Hanger was named for Sara’s beloved grandmother, stylistically it’s a reflection of its owner.
“I definitely have an edgier vibe,” Morreale said. “Almost all of my manufacturers are L.A.-based, so I have a lot of things that are going to be a little bit funkier, unique. I do have some more conservative pieces, as well, but a lot of my stuff does have like a funkier vibe.
“I’m always in a crop-top; I always have animal print and leather and all that stuff happening. So, it does have a little bit of an edgy vibe.”
In fact, the store’s website notes a “young contemporary vibe” – which, if you’ve been to a mall, usually means anyone not resembling a Kardashian is getting side-eye from the shirt-folders.
That’s not the case at The Rose Hanger.
“I develop a relationship with a lot of my customers – to the point where I’m literally like, ‘Ooh, this dress reminds me of you; I thought of you as soon as it came in.’ Women like that. They’re like, ‘Ooh, you’re right; it does.’ Or, ‘This sweater reminds me of something you’d like,’ ” Morreale said. “I kind of help, almost like dress them. I get a lot of girls that come in, and they’re like, ‘I have an event this weekend. What should I wear?’ And I try to come up with an outfit.
“A lot of times, girls will really take risks, and I kind of push them to maybe wear something that’s a little out of their comfort zone. I mean, not everyone’s going to want to wear a pair of leather pants. I have snakeskins and sequins and animal prints. A lot of it’s very unique. So, I think that that kind of draws women into that; they want to be a little bit edgier, and I kind of push them in that way.”
She added, “You could probably find some of this stuff online, but I also have things that kind of form their own outfit. So, you know, this is from a different wholesaler than this; and I would pair things together and make it a whole outfit. Where you’re not going to get that if you’re online. You might be able to find a really cute skirt, but you have no idea what to wear with it. I’ll help a lot of girls put together an entire look.”
Morreale has seen similar teamwork in her short time in the village.
“In Lewiston, it has been awesome being a small business,” she said. “I’m a member of the Lewiston Business Group, and we meet – right now we’re meeting biweekly, because we have so much stuff going on. And it’s just awesome to see these businesses just feed off of each other, and do everything they can to bring Lewiston together. And we run events, and all kinds of things to try and get people to come into our little mile street and shop. And it works.”
Though Morreale is offering both a 15% discount and refreshments on Small Business Saturday, her customers can look forward to something even grander: a brand-new location. The Rose Hanger recently relocated to the Sister & Brother/Stuart Sports/Olde Time Barbershop storefront next to the International Peace Garden.
“From Thanksgiving until Christmas, I’m going to be open seven days a week,” Morreale said. “I haven’t posted officially what those hours are. I have some girls that are gonna help me out, so I can breathe.”
She said customers can find store hours on Instagram, Facebook and at www.therosehangershop.com.
“I also will have them on the door,” Morreale said. “But the goal is to be open seven days a week for the holiday season.”