If you watched Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes” – heck, if you’ve walked into a superstore lately – then you know this country has a serious supply chain problem. Docks are filled with items stashed in crates – and there’s no guarantee those products will end up in your stocking or under your tree this holiday season.
The warehouses, truck drivers and shipping companies are blaming each other, costs are going through the roof, and shelves have more bald spots than your uncle Leo.
But there is a silver lining – no, not for that, but in your present planning.
If you’re one of the countless people who shop small, then you know a lot of aggravation can be avoided by patronizing locally owned merchants.
They have products! In fact, many make their own or utilize other nearby mom-and-pop operations for goods.
And if you’re into that whole, “What’s my name, does this look good on me, do you have it in blue, can you gift-wrap it for me?” thing, then you’ll be pleased to know local merchants are eager to answer those questions.
The pandemic is approaching (gulp) two years – and it’s still not easy (or cheap) to cross the border. Residents have been great in keeping local businesses afloat. They are encouraged to continue that practice on Small Business Saturday.
In return, merchants will make available unique gifts and goods at the lowest prices of the year.
There might even be hot chocolate.
Story and photos by Terry Duffy
Recommending an area business to check out during the Small Business Saturday holiday shopping experience means much more than simply choosing a brick-and-mortar establishment to visit for a purchase.
Oftentimes, the certain business becomes a destination in the community, whether it’s one’s personal choice for a service or just a place to come, relax and enjoy during the holiday shopping chaos.
Such is the case with these two uniquely different establishments – one located in the hamlet of Ransomville, the other in the Village of Youngstown.
Owner Patti Lacey of Patti’s Cut Above in Ransomville with staffer Amanda.
Patti’s Cut Above
For Patti Lacey, operator of Patti’s Cut Above in Ransomville, it’s being the go-to in this community for men, women and children desiring that favorite hair cut or style.
When asked what she should would like to chat about for a Small Business Saturday promo, Patti replied, “Oh I haven’t really thought of it. Maybe I’ll put together a small basket or something for somebody to try to win.”
OK, that sounds good. But as we all know, there are plenty of options to think about when it comes to our own personal choices.
What about Patti’s?
“It’s our friendly service. And we’re reasonable,” she said. “I’ve been here a long time; we have the same hours. We do men’s, women’s, children’s hair – colors cuts, perms, tanning – you name it.”
Located at 2568 Youngstown Lockport Road, Patti views her long-established operation as a true community destination. It’s a place to mingle, to chat with your friends and neighbors, and also receive that much-needed personal fix for a good price.
“I’ve been in business here for a long time; it’s been good to me, very good to me,” Patti said. “I moved here in 1990 and opened up in ’97. And been here every since.”
Originally from the Niagara Wheatfield area, Patti said she grew up “by the river; my parents still live there.”
What of her staffers?
“Well, there’s Amanda that works for me, she’s part-time; and Rachal is part-time. We all do it,” Patti replied when asked about the services and who is the “expert.” Turns out they all are.
“Everybody’s trained here. Amanda, I and Rachal are all trained in tannings, colors perms – all of us know it.”
And the staff at Patti’s also understands the personal needs of their community and how to accommodate. During this writer’s visit, one resident dropped in with a special request for a hair treatment. Patti took the time to sit with the woman, discuss her needs and to plan a visit. “It’s what we do here, for men, women, anyone. We know our customers, what their needs are. We even have the Porter town justice who visits.”
Turning her thoughts to Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27, Patti invited visitors to stop by and see what’s happening in Ransomville.
“Maybe for Small Business Saturday I’ll do a raffle of some sort. Look for something special,” she said.
For Patti and her staff, that “something special” is what customers have come to appreciate when they visit. Stop by and discover the personal experience for yourself.
Lewis Bean of Hill of Beans Coffee Shop in Youngstown.
Hill of Beans Coffee Shop
At the Hill of Beans Coffee Shop in Youngstown, the personal touch is what sets this coffee mecca apart from others, said proprietor Lewis Bean.
Bean, as many may know, is a River Region transplant from the Houston area. He relocated to WNY following a career in the hospitality industry and is among those who discovered that special difference of being a part of the community. He likes it here.
“I love Youngstown – a small town, but I’m very optimistic. We have a great clientele coming in and it’s just growing. And it’s a beautiful place!” he said. “I hated leaving Texas, but I could not have picked a better place to move to.
“Lewiston and Youngstown actually remind me of my small town in Texas – the folks.”
Bean said he moved on from a career in the hospitality industry in Houston and took a stint with a hotelier in Niagara Falls during COVID-19, because it was time.
“I’ve been in the hotel and restaurant business for a good part of 30 years – the customer service side. I like it better here than I do in a hotel. You don’t have to put up with situations,” he laughed.
Of living – and succeeding – up here, he said the biggest obstacle, “basically, it’s just the population. I opened in a small town – it’s just a fact. Look, the Orange Cat in Lewiston – it’s a much larger city. They get, what, 20 customers in an hour? I might have about two.”
Like the Orange Cat, Hill of Beans offers a local touch for, as Bean was quick to note, “It’s not a franchise.”
Comparing Hill of Beans and Orange Cat to another local area coffee favorite, say the Remedy House on Buffalo’s lower west side, Bean said it’s all about the attention given to the locals. And like Patti’s Cut Above mentioned earlier, Bean said it’s that “something special” afforded to the customer.
Unlike Remedy, which has come be known as a favorite for Buffalo’s younger millennials, for Bean Youngstown is “quite the opposite. The average age is much, much older here. A lot of retired folks.”
But Bean said he’s adjusted to this demographic quite well, pointing to the “library crowd” that has come to call Hill of Beans home. “They have their meetings here out on the veranda.”
And speaking of that massive front porch gathering spot at Hill of Beans, Bean said he’s now in process of getting things all-festive for the upcoming holiday celebrations in the village.
“We going to put all kinds of lights out there – make it look like something out of the Griswolds,” he said with a laugh.
Bean said that “doing something different” is what helps make Youngstown stand out, even over its neighbors such as Lewiston to the south or across river to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
“Like the Labor day Parade. I said, ‘Man, this parade is longer and larger and better participated than anything,” he said. “And I was in it … dressed as the Tin Man (laughs).”
Noting the village’s developing theater community and the successful “Wizard of Oz” performance of last summer, Bean said that is what makes Youngstown stand out.
“I love community theater,” he said. “It was a family thing out there in Texas, just something that we love. Whether it was behind the scenes. I showed up at a meeting … I was looking for something. Turns out I come cast as the Tin Man (laughs).”
Noting the community involvement, Bean added, “That’s how we do it here.”
He said the theater group is now planning a Christmas production to coincide with Youngstown’s annual “Christmas in the Village,” set to take place the weekend of Dec. 11-12.
“We’re gonna put it on; we’re opening up the Mug and Musket for a fundraiser,” he said. “Without serving dinner, we’re going to be putting it on almost like a dinner-type theater. Our plan is to put it on at the Mug and Musket; we’ll be using the frontage as a stage.”
Bean invited River Region residents to stay tuned for updates on this still-unnamed production and put it on their calendars for “Christmas in the Village” weekend.
As far as Small Business Saturday – yes, Hill of Beans will be open and Bean welcomes shoppers to stop by for their favorite coffee, some tasty baked goods prepared by Rebecca Poletti, even a freshly made waffle customers can create themselves.
“I’m going to be open; that’s basically it. You know I’ve expanded my menu,” Bean said as he looked around the counter. “We’ve got our (coffee) basics; (and) we’re excellent at making our flavored lattes, coffees, everything – trying out different flavors. I’ve expanded with the baked goods – Becky’s, Mangia Cakes and Pies, but I also just hooked up with bagels from Power City Eatery.
“And look over here – you can make your own waffle! Imagine that – Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn or something, and go down and make your own waffle in the morning. I’ve got the same setup.”
Bean said he loves involving businesses such as Mangia, Power City and Steamworks Coffee for some tasty java.
Yes, a Small Business Saturday visit at the Hill should be on the to-do list, Bean said.
“I’ll also be open for Thanksgiving, all day!” he added. “Stop by for a visit!”
CLICK BELOW TO FIND MORE SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY DEALS