By Joshua Maloni
What is the key to success? For three of Lewiston’s longest-tenured businesses, the answer is simple: service.
In a “different” sort of year, they invite shoppers to stop in and see what else makes their products, expertise and attention to detail unique. Each one offers something special not often seen in a “big box” store or from a one-click website.
Moreover, these three small businesses enable patrons to transform their homes and yards into respites in a year where, with limited travel options and even less events to attend, a “staycation” has become more necessary.
Stop by and see for yourself on Small Business Saturday.
Nov. 28 is the annual celebration of all things local – and a call to action for people to support hometown merchants.
840 Seneca St., Lewiston
With movie theaters and music venues shuttered, travel bans on almost every state and the inability to visit Canada, more and more people turned to their backyard pools over the summer.
Greg’s Pools was deemed an essential business as it provides sanitizers, hot tub and pool cleaning supplies. It remained open, offering in-store, after-hours and curbside pickup.
“We've seen a lot more new customers coming in. I don't know if it's people that were shopping the ‘big box’ stores before maybe feel uncomfortable and they're coming in trying to support local business,” Greg Robertson said. “We have lost some of our Canadian clientele, because we had some Canadians come over and they would buy stuff for their pools and spas. And now they can't get across the bridge. We do have a few customers that live in Canada that have summer homes over here, and we ended up having to maintain those for the whole summer, because they couldn't get over to do anything with the pool. But overall, we've seen a lot of new people.
“I think a lot of people are putting money into their backyard, because they can't go away; so they're trying to make a little bit more fun for the kids at home. We've had a lot of people come in and looking for stuff to do around the house; so that kind of even helped out a little bit with the situation where people couldn't get out and do other things.
“We found a lot of people that have come in and bought stuff that said that they didn't want to buy stuff online and buy a bunch of foreign products online; they were gonna start making an effort to shop more local, try to get more stuff that's American made. And hopefully it'll continue after this is all over with, and they don't forget about that and go back to (chains).
“Sometimes the least expensive isn't the best way to go. And our prices are usually pretty competitive. We try to not to carry junk because, if we sell you something, we're married to that product for the rest of its life – servicing and things like that. Sometimes a few dollars that you save at the beginning just becomes a hassle trying to service it down the road.”
Some 30 years ago, Greg’s Pools began offering an assortment of sheds, which enabled customers to further define their backyard vacation pads.
“They've grown since we started out,” he said. “It used to just be a little barn or a little shed. Now, you can get porches on them, and we sell them as pool houses and change houses now, too – and they can get quite nice. It's not just your standard what you would think is a box (or) a wooden shed.”
His wife, Michelle Robertson, explained, “During COVID, it's become a haven for people. They put up she-sheds, man-caves – whatever you want to call them. Some people have said, ‘I’ve got to get away from my husband; got to get away from my wife; I need an office.’ They put up sheds to put their office in, because they're working from home; kids are working in the house; they can't do what they're doing, so now they've got some place to go. It works out pretty nice.”
The newest edition to Greg’s Pools is Abbi’s Toy Corner.
“Abigail is our 9-year-old, and she asked if she could have it as Abbi’s Toy Corner,” Michelle Robertson said. “It literally was supposed to be that very front corner (laughs), and she kind of just took over. In the next couple weeks, you'll see more of the store will be taken over with the toy store.”
Greg Robertson said, “The toys were something that Melissa & Doug was after us for quite a few years to start carrying toys, because we carry a few pool-related items and summer items. And we never did it, because there was a local toy store in town and they did a real nice job. And what happened is they retired, and then Toys R’ Us closed up. And we have our youngest daughter; we were always having issues trying to find a decent gift when she had to go to a birthday party. You don't want to just go out and buy some junk.
“And so then we looked at the Melissa & Doug line again. And we brought that and it's kind of worked out nice, because it's given us a Christmas season that we really didn't have with the pools and the spas. It wasn't a thing for that offseason. Because we didn't want to really get something that was more summertime, because we're so busy in the summer. So this has worked out nice.”
Greg’s Pools marked 40 years in operation in 2020.
“I always tell people when they come to Greg's Pools, and they get our service, they're getting Greg,” Michelle Robertson said.
“You come to a small shop, here in Lewiston – wherever – you're getting personal service. People know you. We've had customers that have been with him longer than I've been with him,” she added. “We know their pools, we know their houses, we know what they got. They know us. You don't get that relationship at ‘big box’ stores. I mean, everybody that goes to a small shop usually forms some type of a bond.”
It’s that type of relationship that often enables customers to save money at Greg’s Pools.
“Everything is so much of a throwaway world,” Greg Robertson said. “You know, nobody repairs anything, and people come in and they're looking for a new pump or something. And it's, ‘Well, it's making noise.’ Well, that can be fixed. Instead of paying $300 or $400 for a new product, for $50 you can repair it.”
Michelle Robertson said, “We've had customers that have been with us, that I've been opening and closing their pools since we started.”
“A lot of our customers, they're not customers – they’re family,” she added. “They’ve watched us have our children, raise our children. They've been here for graduation, for wedding. We're a big extended family. When they come here, they're coming into our family, basically.”
Greg’s Pools also sells a large assortment of toys and sheds.
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce encourages people to “Shop Small” with their favorite businesses, because it not only boosts local economies, but also makes a big difference in communities around the world.
It said, “Businesses in our communities are doing everything they can to remain open and follow New York state guidelines for your safety. Please adhere to occupancy limits, mask wearing and social distance guidelines when shopping. Many of our business also offer contactless pick-up options for your convenience.”
President Jennifer Pauly said she knows this year is different for everyone.
“Our businesses are gearing up for the holiday season and need your support more than ever,” she noted. “Some of our businesses are offering an extra incentive for you to stop in. Please think about spending your funds locally. Many of our businesses also have online options, delivery or contactless pickup.”
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce is offering a free $15 River Region gift certificate to the first 75 people who stop by the office (895 Center St., Lewiston) beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 28.
There is one catch: The $15 gift certificate is only valid that day at participating businesses. The full listing is available online at www.NiagaraRiverRegion.com.
This promotion will have the potential to immediately put more than $1,000 back into member businesses on Small Business Saturday.
Niagara County merchants with Small Business Saturday Specials include:
•A-1 Land Care – 1527 Ridge Road, Lewiston: Fresh-cut Christmas trees, wreaths and poinsettias.
•Anchor Spirits Wine and Liquor – 113 Lockport St., Youngstown: Celebrating Shop Small Saturday since 2010.
•Buffalo Coffee Roastery – 5844 Buffalo St., Sanborn: $2 off a pound of coffee; $1 off any flavored coffee. (Friday and Saturday)
•*Canterbury Place – 547 Center St., Lewiston: Free gift with purchase. Coupon available Nov. 28 through Dec. 4 for Stonewall Kitchen and gourmet food.
•Cathy’s Hair Port – 777 Cayuga St., Lewiston – Product special – buy two, get one free.
•*Chéri Amour – 522 Center St., Lewiston: Small Business Week runs Nov. 21-29 with in-store promotions on all your favorites, including Kendra Scott, Vidda and T Jazelle.
•Como Deli on Center Street – 555 Center St., Lewiston: Homemade Italian dishes, soups, salads and subs.
•Gentlemans Club Barber Shop – 5839 Buffalo St., Sanborn: $10 haircuts. (Friday and Saturday)
•Gleam & Glimmer Stained Glass Studio – 34 Webster St., North Tonawanda: On Small Business Weekend, our popular pick-a-candy-cane sale. Discounts between 10% and 50% off one item under $50 (exclusions apply); gift certificate special: purchase $100 in gift certificates, get a $25 bonus certificate.
•The Great Foodini Pizzeria – 2564 Academy St., Ransomville – Everything fresh and made in house, including subs, chicken tenders and fish fry.
•Greg’s Pools – 840 Seneca St., Lewiston – Everything for your pool and spa; Abbi’s Toy Corner; puzzles for the holiday shopping season.
•H.A. Treichlers Greenhouse – 2687 Saunders Settlement Road: Poinsettias available for the holidays. (Friday through Sunday)
•Hurtin’ 4 Curtains – 469 Center St., Lewiston: For all your custom drapery needs.
•*Inspirations on Canvas – 449 Center St., Lewiston: Take 10% off all in-store purchases (not including purchases of commissioned art or gift certificates). Enter to win one of five necklaces or a chance at one grand prize of a $50 store gift certificate.
•Kuntz Sanborn Mill – 5890 Ward Road: Take 10% off each item more than $1 (cash or check only). (Friday through Sunday)
•Lewiston Antique Mall – 2692 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn: Visit our vendors, who will offer discounts at their booths. (Friday through Sunday)
•*The Lewiston Museum – 469 Plain St., Lewiston: A sneak peak of baskets raffled off Dec. 5-6. Items in the gift shop will be ready to fill your gift needs for those “Hungry for the History of Lewiston.” Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
•Master barber Aaron Stevens – 744 Center St., Lewiston: Visit me at my new location.
•Niagara Records – 5833 Buffalo St., Sanborn: Take 10% off all records. (Friday through Sunday)
•The Niagara Sausage Co. – 5611 Lockport Road, Town of Niagara: Holiday roasts and hams available.
•Patti’s Cut Above – 2568 Youngstown-Lockport Road, Ransomville: Gift certificates available.
•*The Rose Hanger – 480 Center St., Lewiston: 15% off storewide! Some exclusions may apply. Free Rose Hanger individually packaged cookies from Just Desserts by Aimee (while supplies last) and a raffle to win a $25 The Rose Hanger gift card! Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit www.therosehangershop.com.
•Sanborn Old General Store – 5856 Buffalo St., Sanborn: Open house. Take 10% off each item. (Friday through Sunday)
•Shawnee Country Barns – 6608 Shawnee Road, Sanborn: Open house. Take 15% off anything. (Friday through Sunday)
•Sue’s Frame of Mind – 748 Center St., Lewiston: Expert framing of treasured memories, keepsakes and art; gift certificates available.
•Tortuga Sandwich Shop – 5835 Buffalo St., Sanborn: Come visit our restaurant.
•Tracy Gillick’s Hill-Vue Café & Catering – 1439 Ridge Road, Lewiston: Home-cooked specials for breakfast and lunch; best burgers in town.
•Wagner’s Farm Market – 2672 Lockport Road, Sanborn: Homegrown apples are $12 per ½ bushel. Homegrown squash is $15 per ½ bushel.
•*Warren’s Village Hardware – 185 Portage Road, Lewiston: Your year-round grilling headquarters. Take 10% off Melissa & Doug toys and educational products.
•Wilco Auto Care – 5882 Ward Road, Sanborn: Your “Sanborn Tire Headquarters.” Call us for a great deal. (Friday through Sunday)
•The Winery at Marjim Manor – 7171 E. Lake Road, Appleton: Double-discount day on Friday, Nov. 27. Take 8% off four bottles, or 12% off six bottles; or 24% off 12 bottles. Free holiday wine gift bag with the coupon on Page 11.
*Denotes participation in the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce member promotion.
Visit the chamber website, www.NiagaraRiverRegion.com, for an up-to-date list.