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Island businesses show off wares on Small Business Saturday

Sat, Dec 9th 2023 06:55 am

Story and Photos by Alice Gerard

Senior Contributing Writer

Rob Rein has been working with wood for his entire life.

“I grew up doing woodworking,” said Rein, who works for Hillside Children’s Center as a social worker. “My dad worked for Kittinger Furniture. I grew up in his shop. As I was raising my kids, we started doing some projects around the house, flipping houses. That turned into building cornholes and tables and all kinds of stuff.”

On Small Business Saturday, held Nov. 25, Rein was selling products from his business, Ginger Woodworks, at Simply Boba, 2600 Grand Island Blvd.

“I’ve been running Ginger Woodworks for about seven years,” Rein said. “We’re right on the Island, on the south end of the Island. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and all the social medias. I film a TV show with Outdoor Channel, called ‘Renovation Hunters.’ ‘Renovation Hunters’ goes out to various small towns across the United States, and we renovate cabins, hunting lodges, fishing shacks, things like that. All of the owners have a chance to apply to be on the show. It’s like ‘Extreme Home Makeover,’ so everyone has a story.”

Rein said his woodworking business is a family project. He said he gets help from his wife, Chelsey, as well as from their children. They are Dan, who recently graduated from a powerlines program at a trade school in Georgia, and Andrew and Nora, students at Veronica Connor Middle School.

“My wife is always coming up with great ideas we need to implement for projects,” Rein said. “I make everything, but I don’t always know what people might like. My wife is great at that. She does a lot of the design work.”

Dan said, “I think that it’s super cool that, coming home after work, he’s got this new project that he’s working on. He shows me different aspects of how he was able to do it.”

Andrew added, “I help out sometimes, and I get to use the tools.”

Sue Robertson, owner of Bake Me Crazy, was also at Simply Boba, talking to customers about her cookie-baking business that she runs out of her home.

“I have been baking all of my life,” she said. “I started Bake Me Crazy about two years ago. It was borne out of a passion for baking and doing fundraisers for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. As I baked, I raised funds for my ‘Ride for Roswell.’ Find me on Facebook and order cookies.”

Robertson’s cookies, shaped like cups of bubble tea, are sold at Simply Boba.

“Vinh (Nguyen) and I have been friends for the last couple of years,” Robertson said. “When he started the bubble tea shop, I brought him some bubble tea cookies, and he’s like, ‘These will sell!’ So, we started a little networking joint venture.”

Nguyen said, “I just like working collaboratively (with the vendors). I like working with small business that aren’t necessarily brick and mortar. Rob’s not brick and mortar. Sue’s not brick and mortar. Giving them a space to help push their business, and it helps funnel people into Simply Boba. We do it for the community. We do it for one another. That’s what I’m about.”

Rein talked about Nguyen’s business: “Vinh is a good friend of mine and, to be honest with you, it’s been awesome over the last year to watch his idea and passion, just like mine. He grew up the restaurant business with his family, in the kitchen with his grandmother. To watch him be able to turn what was only in his head into this beautiful restaurant here on the Island and to do so with his passion for the Island. That’s always a huge recipe for success on Grand Island. Not being someone who was born on the Island but who’s been here, raising my own kids, it’s great to see somebody who, just like myself, came to the Island, embraced the Island, and absolutely loves what he can do.”

He noted Nguyen hires students and gives them “a place where they enjoy working. A good boss.”

Denise Ricotta shows off one of the soaps that she makes in her home business and was selling at Thompson Farm.


At Thompson Farm, 2487 Long Road, produce, baked goods, and other products were available for sale. Eileen Zimmerman, owner of EZ Pierogis, was one of the vendors selling products on Small Business Saturday.

“I’ve been making pierogis probably for 20 years,” she said. “I started out at the Polish Villa and then I worked myself up to making them at home. I sell them to restaurants. Hotels buy them, too.”

Zimmerman’s pierogis are stuffed with cheese, sauerkraut or potatoes. In addition to the pierogis, she also was selling stuffed pretzels.

“They’re stuffed with different things: There’s caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter. All different kinds,” she said.

In addition to the businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, Grand Island Chamber of Commerce President Eric Fiebelkorn and First Vice President Ryan McCarthy visited a variety of businesses to make Facebook Live videos.

“The Chamber, for the past few years, has done these impromptu videos,” Fiebelkorn said. “We just give them a little bit of exposure. We have an authentic experience with them, ask them some questions, and we get the information out there. As much research as we do and as much as we know about our business community, I always learn something when I sit and talk with the owners about their passion for causes or the Island. All in all, it went really well. We have a lot of viewership for those videos, which is really great. It’s super low-cost.”

Fiebelkorn talked about the challenges and successes of small business on Grand Island: “One of our core challenges as a business community makes itself evident on Small Business Saturday. The spread-out nature (of the community), and the really not heavily trafficked central business district.

“You can’t just put a sign out front or one post (online) or have a ribbon cutting one time and expect to be successful on the Island. You have to work for it here. Islanders are a bit fickle. Most travel off the Island for work every day, so they have options off the Island.”

Despite the challenges, Fiebelkorn said, “It was a really positive year for Small Business Saturday here on the Island.

“I give our small businesses a lot of credit. To exist here on the Island and to be successful – the ones who are doing it are really putting their back into it.”

Eileen Zimmerman shows off the stuffed pretzels and pierogis she was selling at Thompson Farm.


Upcoming events in Grand Island’s business community will include cookie sales at the Thompson Farm and more vendors at Simply Boba.

“On Dec. 16, we will have limited cookies available with our same vendors,” Wendy Thompson said. “Denise (Ricotta) will be here with her goods. And pizzelles. Candy makers will be here. Honey, as usual. We’ll have limited supplies of Christmas cookies.”

Ricotta, who makes pizzelles for the annual cookie sale, encouraged customers to come early.

“We’re not taking orders. First come, first serve,” she said.

Nguyen said his plan for Christmas at Simply Boba “started out as the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas,’ but, because we wanted to hit the busiest hours of the shop, we swapped it to ‘The 12 Vendors of Christmas.’ We’ll have three or four different vendors for three or four consecutive weeks, with a total of 12, with opportunities to pick up local gifts that are handcrafted.”

Fiebelkorn said the Chamber of Commerce is looking into establishing future events spotlighting services available on Grand Island.

“We have so many questions that come into the Chamber at this time of year about someone to plow, shovel a walk. Different services,” he explained. “They always ask, ‘Who is good? The plow business can be a little fly by night. People worry about spending and having no shows. In a spring, it’s a myriad of questions … gutters, roof, windows, landscaping, plumbing and electrical.

“We’re thinking about doing a mini-Island vendor home show for both fall and spring for summer and winter trades and services.”

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