The Renaissance of “Shopping Local” at Cedar Creek Lake
Debunking the myth of the lost brick & mortar storefront by confronting eShopping with new and traditional customer experiences
We’ve heard it hundreds of times. Traditional retail stores are dying off to new eCommerce internet retailers like Amazon, eBay and Wayfair. Even Walmart.com is imploding much of the company’s traditional retail storefront business. So, how is it that an hour southeast of Dallas, Texas in the small, Cedar Creek Lake community made up of about a dozen small towns with a total combined population of less than 20,000, can a dozen or so small, independent retail shops not only survive but actually thrive in the face of these modern, internet eCommerce behemoths?
To answer this question, Cedar Creek Lake.Online visited three individual retailers in three surrounding towns to get their views on how they fared during 2018 and, of course, the most recent Christmas holiday season last month. The three retailers were W Haus in Gun Barrel City, Market Street Nest in Mabank and Wild Horse Boutique in Malakoff. Most importantly we asked each of these three successful retailers to explain why and how things turned out the way they did, what lessons they learned and what they might consider doing differently in 2019 to repeat their success this year. Each of the three Cedar Creek Lake retailers has found their own, unique path to success and I’m excited for them to share their stories with you here today!
W Haus Décor & More-Gun Barrel City, TX
We only experience it occasionally. That is, when ambiance and style combine with chic elegance and fashion to carry off a truly unexpected, magical experience that is one to be remembered. But once in a great while, someone figures out how to repeat the formula in a way that for the unsuspecting guest at W Haus in Gun Barrel City, Texas it creates the kind of experience that they want to come back for again and again.
W Haus Décor & More, owned by partners David Westerfield and Thomas Weigl is not a shop, it’s a shopping event experience! These two retail geniuses have managed to redefine the meaning of shopping by redefining the ‘art’ of retail customer service. W Haus combines a fabulous boutique/gift shop retail store with an outdoor event patio and full-fledged art gallery. Guests can wander through the property with a complementary glass of Prosecco wine or other light beverage and enjoy helpful assistance by a highly knowledgeable staff eager to please.
The boutique includes many hard-to-find gifts for all occasions, lake house and home accessories, casual and entertainment attire and other carefully selected finds.
The relaxing outdoor patio area invites visitors to stay, mingle and enjoy the peaceful water fountain and outdoor garden art while sampling many of the W Haus social experiences with other friendly customers, staff and visitors from nearby Cedar Creek Lake area towns.
I’ve come to enjoy my several visits and conversations with David and Thomas over the brief several months since first knowing them. The venue has included usually their multi-facility gift shop/boutique/garden patio/art gallery during wine & cheese events or while gift shopping for my family and friends. Recently, I remarked to David, “I can’t imagine how anyone could compare a shopping experience like this with Amazon.com or Wafair.com! I asked David how he and Thomas came up with this approach and how is it working for them so far?” David answered, “Our approach has been to bring a casual elegance theme to both Cedar Creek Lake weekenders and full-timers. To do that, we know our customers want both a unique shopping experience and a dedicated staff. So together we first had to assemble and arrange an unprecedented array of personally selected merchandise. It had to range from whimsical to the classical with a wide price range so that we ensured there was something for everyone.”
But, clearly, I observed, the experience goes far beyond shopping. W Haus integrated a professional, fine-arts gallery stocked with original hand-crafted sculpture, jewelry, canvas and photography works from award -winning local, regional and nationally recognized artists. You can’t help but be moved by the beauty of the art gallery as it surrounds you in a very personal way during your shopping experience in and outside of the boutique.
And, lastly is the outdoor patio garden. Home to both regularly scheduled events, or just a pleasant afternoon sip of wine for a short respite from your shopping or art appreciation. Being immersed in the moment at W Haus will leave guests wanting to come back for more as David and Thomas continue their quest to keep customers happy with an ever-changing inventory of unique gifts and expert services.
In closing, I think its important to note that with all of their creativity, commitment to great customer service, David and Thomas are also smart business men. W Haus made that clear when they successfully closed a public/private partnership deal for initial project funding with the Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corporation.
So even GBC city leaders saw the efficacy of these gentlemen’s vision and were willing to back them with more than just a ‘good luck’ wish!
A short Post Script Note: As of this writing, David and Thomas have let a few lucky Cedar Creek Lakers know that they plan to open a gourmet restaurant next door to W Haus in the spring of 2019. I wish them well and to their continued success in the future! W Haus: https://cedarcreeklake.online/listing/w-haus-decor-more/
Market Street Nest-Mabank, TX
Market Street Nest has become widely known as an ‘anchor’ retail boutique shop (alongside several other successful retailers) made famous in part by its former owners Julie and Randy Squibb over the past several years. Since then, the entire section of East Market Street in Mabank, Texas has become largely a huge retail success. Thanks to Julie’s vision and execution for branding and promotion and her stead-fast leadership, this tight knit shop-keepers community has converted their “best little Market Street’ brand into a strong “Shop Local’ emphasis. And, it’s paid off handsomely for both the retailers and their very satisfied customers from all over the Cedar Creek lake area.
Other successful shops on East Market Street include Dirt Road Divas, Mamie Ruth Mercantile, Vanilla Fringe, Elsie Mae, Victorian Lady Tea and Twisted Sisters Wines. Other trendy retailers and service providers have also popped up including Market Street Bakery, Pink Chair Salon and Guilty Pleasures Café! You can find all of them and more on our site https://cedarcreeklake.online/listing-location/mabank-market-street/
Shannon Steakley-Anderson and her co-owner husband Coy Anderson acquired Nest in October of 2017 from the Squibbs and they’ve been going strong ever since. While a lot of the interior design has been changed over the past year and a half, the Nest retail brand has continued to symbolize strong customer service, unique hard-to-find gift items and products, great shopping experiences for their customers and generally a quaint and lovely place to visit. And, talking with Shannon, a strong community outreach commitment is evident everywhere you look.
Shannon explains that Market Street Nest is “an inviting retail boutique that’s the kind of space where, even when you just drive up, you want to stop and come inside. Taking a strong lead from Julie, we’ve designed a space that gives customers this sense of comfort where, when they drive up, they want to come inside, relax, and look around. And you can’t replicate anything close to that from an online computer.”
Having said that, Shannon clearly understands the power and the reach of an online internet presence. So, she’s committed to broadening her base by creating regular contact with her customers by blogging her latest ideas in gift giving and fashion trends on her online Market Street Nest site. She expects her site to grow in popularity along with regular customers coming through her retail shop door and expects both channels to be complimentary throughout 2019.
Shannon explains that, in addition to a stronger online and social media emphasis, “live, in-store sales are a great way to get people active and involved with our gift selections and promotions. I tried to do at least one live sale event in our retail store each month in 2018. And, this year, I’m planning to increase that to at least two per month. So, we’re expecting to see even more traffic in 2019 with more retail and product messaging being supported via social media and other online channels.”
Promotion, Promotion, Promotion!!
If there’s anything Shannon picked up from Nest’s former owner, Julie Squibb, other fellow Market Street merchants and the Mabank Chamber of Commerce, it’s the value of promotion! Third behind offering great products and fabulous customer service is promotion. The Mabank Market Street brand has become synonymous with community outreach and ‘shop local’ and Shannon talked about the importance of building strong outreach ties by getting involved with community events.
Thanks to the Mabank Chamber and all of the other Market Street Merchants, Market Street just came off a whole series of highly successful holiday events including an ‘Ole Fashioned Christmas’ promotion that delivered hundreds of Christmas shoppers and outstanding sales results. Turning the corner on 2019, Shannon noted that, “Each year Market Street brings in a large crowd for our annual Art Festival in May. Coy and I , along with our Market Street retail and service provider partners, expect to play a big role in promoting this event again this year.”
In closing, I asked Shannon if she had any unexpected surprises during 2018. And, she mentioned how during the late fall, she was excited to learn that, after initially getting turned down for her application to carry the Tyler Candle Company products, her application was reconsidered and approved shortly before the Christmas holidays. So, as it turned out, Market Street Nest was blessed with Tyler Candle products ending up in their ‘Top Five’ Overall Product Sales category for the season! I said, “Wow, talk about being at the right place at the right time!” But, that’s what I keep hearing about from people like Julie, Shannon and the many other successful Market Street partners in Mabank, Texas. Who says online monsters like Amazon.com are taking over the ‘Shop Local’ independent, small retailers out there? You can’t see that here on the ‘Best Little Market Street’ in Texas!
Market Street Nest: https://cedarcreeklake.online/listing/market-street-nest/
Wild Horse Boutique-Malakoff, Texas
When Sheila Smith first decided to open up her community oriented tanning salon in downtown Malakoff, she had no idea the old 1900’s era building she picked out would ultimately be converted into a unique and charming ladies wear boutique. Today, the old-fashioned, former grocery store gives customers a memorable ‘yester-year’ feeling while browsing through today’s latest fashion trends. “It’s an experience our customers love and one we tried to achieve’, explained, Sheila, owner of the Wild Horse Boutique in Malakoff, Texas. But behind the invisible curtain of the old building, Sheila also manages a ten-year old, successful internet-based, online ladies fashion store serving up what has become one of the Cedar Creek area’s most successful hybrid retail shops.
Sheila started out small, working Canton First Monday Trade-days and Rodeo events back in the early 2000’s, later on opening Wild Horse Boutique in Malakoff during 2005. The online store came up in 2008 and she’s not looked back since.
Today, Sheila relies heavily on social media for more than just featuring products and word of mouth advertising. Without spilling too many of her ‘trade secrets’ let’s just say Sheila has come up with some creative social media strategies on Facebook to augment her store front and online sales. She’s created several innovative social engagement tactics that enable her to offer more customer conveniences, better service and a wider choice of options that her customers are loving! Sheila explains, “My goal has always been to give our very best customer service to all of our ladies and to provide something for them in their own community. That’s why I chose Malakoff. We appreciate everyone that shops local. It’s because of them that we can keep small boutiques like mine open for our community.”
Sheila added that the Wild Horse retail store front still represents the largest portion of sales for the company as of 2018 including the most recent holiday sales period. However, she’s planning to invest more in her online store going forward and expects to see sales pick up there while the retail side continues to show even more growth in 2019. All in all, a strong outlook is expected for the future
Wild Horse Boutique: https://cedarcreeklake.online/listing/wild-horse-boutique/
As most locals know, taking a car trip around Cedar Creek Lake without stopping to shop takes a little over an hour round trip. Today, we just touched on three successful retailers in the three towns of Gun Barrel City, Mabank and Malakoff. And, honestly, this project hardly does justice to the literally several hundred hard-working, independent small local shopkeepers, service providers, franchise operators and non-profits around Cedar Creek Lake.
So, in our own small way, Cedar Creek Lake.Online has started a monthly recognition campaign. We’re calling it the “LakeLeader of the Month” and we’re focusing on those local Cedar Creek Lake area businesses, service providers and non-profits who have been making and continue to make a unique contribution to our community. We’re looking for suggestions and your recommendations every day. Maybe you’re a Cedar Creek local business owner. If so, I’m sure you have a story to tell yourself. Or maybe you know of a great story to tell! If so, let us know. Shopping the lake; Cedar Creek Lake is what we’re all about!
And, by the way, our January 2019 Cedar Creek Lake.Online LakeLeader is Jalopy Joe’s Gourmet Popcorn, Fudge and Candy. Joe and Tonya Luby started serving our Cedar Creek community in 2010 with fund raising and other outreach services for their fresh popcorn and other products and have seen their Gun Barrel City retail business grow steadily ever since. You can read their story here. https://cedarcreeklake.online/lakeleader-of-the-month/
“Shop the Lake!”
Eric Gore & Hank, Jr. Co-Site Developers & Publishers
Cedar Creek Lake.Online