Walking the streets and sidewalks of downtown Flagstaff, you are sure to find small businesses occupying small spaces. There are numerous businesses, apartments and homes tucked into nearly every storefront and alley in the downtown area. Paths, patios and side doors connect businesses and homes, which often makes it difficult to distinguish a place of business from someone’s home. (As I found out when I entered what I thought was the patio of a small tea shop to join other customers; rather, it was a private patio for the small adjoining home. The tenants accepted my apologies and offered for me to join them for afternoon tea, which I did, making new friends.)
Although the footprints are small, the products and services offered are far reaching and are integral to Flagstaff’s culture and economy. From tea, candle, art, soap, herb and tincture shops to burger joints, yoga studios, bakeries and clothing stores, these small businesses bring life and distinction to Flagstaff. And while some of these unique stores have been in business for decades and have built a large client base, others are newer and are working to establish a customer base of locals and visitors.
Small-store businesses offer unique and local items. Buying from locally owned and operated businesses benefits local families and puts money into the local economy. And, with Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, why not support Flagstaff families and businesses? Here are a few examples of people doing big business in a small space:
Flagstaff Soap Company owners Alisha and Justin Poehnelt have occupied the 350-square-foot shop on San Francisco Street for five years. The space is filled with handcrafted, organic, people-, animal- and environment-friendly bath and body products, artwork and other handmade items.
“We have a lot of local people who strongly prefer to use our soap, deodorant and other products,” Alisha Poehnelt said. “We also have a lot of visitors who purchase products while in Flagstaff and then they continue to order from our website.”
For the first four years, all the soap and body products were made in the store. Now, they have a workshop that allows them to create more products in larger amounts, which means room for more items in the store and a growing web-based business.
Even though the retail space is small, she says the location is prime. “We are right downtown, which means we are able to capture the locals and visitors.”
For more than 20 years, Forever Sports Cards has operated in an interior hallway off San Francisco Street in a space that is full of history and bursting at the seams. Every inch of wall space is covered with sports cards, gaming cards, pop-culture memorabilia and other collectibles. The store draws collectors of all ages and owner Ed Garver says many of his customers are second and third generations of his first customers. Although many people still collect sports cards, Garver says they can be more expensive than other collectibles. Currently, the best-selling and hottest merchandise in the store are Magic: The Gathering gaming cards.
Garver says he has no need to advertise, as “word of mouth is the best advertising there is.” Perhaps that word of mouth is the result of being in business since 1986 when the store originally opened on Humphreys Street under the name Flagstaff Baseball Shop.
The Golden Hive and Queen Bee Financial, where waxing and taxing meet, is a dual business owned by one person located in one location. The small building, which sits on Route 66 between Peace Surplus and The McMillian: Kitchen and Bar, is a source for more than 20 types of bee products, all from Arizona, including honey, royal jelly, propolis and a line of skincare. Honey and bee lovers can also purchase locally harvested pinon nuts and other gift items.
Owner Tracy Heirigs and her daughter, Jasmine, started making beeswax candles as a hobby, which, as many hobbies do, became a home-based business. At first, the handcrafted candles were sold at farmers’ markets and on the internet, but when the small downtown store front became available about a year ago, Heirigs decided to open a retail shop and expand her merchandise.
When not creating candles or healthful supplements from bees and honey, Heirigs operates Queen Bee Financial where she does bookkeeping, financial consulting and corporate and individual taxes.
Primo’s Hot Dogs is perhaps the smallest eatery in Flagstaff – seating for 1,000, four at a time. The single-file, walk-in deli, which opened in 2001 on South San Francisco Street, is known for its gourmet Vienna beef hot dogs, bratwurst and polish sausages, vegan dogs and chili, soups, nachos and hoagies. Those who work or live near downtown Flagstaff or the Northern Arizona University campus frequent the low-cost, student- and dog-friendly establishment. The late-night hours are a plus to those who are hungry after enjoying all the entertainment, restaurants and bars Flagstaff offers late into the night.
Take the small business challenge and find a new small business in a small location each month. You might be surprised at all the big possibilities and new favorites just waiting to be found. FBN
By Starla S. Collins, FBN
Fragrance pours out of the shop tempting visitors in the street as Flagstaff Soap Company owners Alisha and Justin Poehnelt prepare a large supply for the holidays.
Photo by Starla Collins