Month: May 2017

Rosebud Flower Shop

The family roots run deep at Rosebud Flower Shop – not just for the florist business, but for its location, at the corner of East 10th and Reed streets on the City of Erie’s east side.

Ruth Thompson’s family has been located at that corner for generations. Her father, the late Erie City Councilman Jim Thompson, started the flower shop nearly 60 years ago, eventually moving it into the East 10th Street location that had previously been home to other family businesses.

Today, Ruth, who also runs the ANNA Shelter and a property management company, is gradually passing the flower shop business on to her daughter, Rosealena Thompson.

Rosealena has been part of the business since she helped out as a child.

Back then, she came up with her own flower arrangements that her mom displayed in the shop – though they were, as Ruth laughingly describes now, “hideous.”

Today, however, Rosealena’s arrangements are colorful and creative – and are boosting business.

She’s also been marketing the business on social media, and making connections in the community.

“Maybe she’s found her niche,” Ruth says of her daughter.

For Ruth, it’s a comfort to see her daughter embrace the business that has been in the family for more than 50 years – in a building that was built by the family in the 1800s.

“Just the idea of someone else having this – the idea of closing it was so hard,” Ruth says.

About Rosebud Flower Shop: The family had previously owned other businesses, including a general store and a hardware shop, at the East 10th Street building. Though the flower shop used to get walk-in traffic, especially in the heyday of GE and Hammermill, today the majority of sales are made online. Other family members join Ruth and Rosealena at the shop, including Ruth’s mother, JoAn, and several siblings. “People say they have a family business. This, literally, is our family’s business,” Ruth says.

Why Erie County: The family’s roots are, of course, vital to why Ruth Thompson remains anchored in Erie – and, more specifically, remains committed to the city’s lower east side. “I can’t imagine leaving this corner,” she says. “I’ve had several opportunities. But this place is our roots.” She also sees continued support from Erie residents in supporting small businesses. “Flowers are a luxury. Same with eating out. People say how horrible the economy is, but people are still buying flowers, and people are still going out to eat,” she says.

Challenges of Erie County: Ruth Thompson’s biggest challenges should be familiar to any small-business owner – trying to juggle all the work that needs to be done. Trying to do the jobs of several people – a necessity for a small business – means that some aspects of the business inevitably get the short shrift.

Address: 660 E. 10th St., Erie, PA 16503 or www.rosebudflowershop.com

 

Coming next week: We check out the operations at Curtze Food Service, also in the City of Erie

 

A. Anthony & Sons

During my visit to A. Anthony & Sons Inc., one thing that stood out to me is the company’s dedication to tradition.

That tradition is evident in the framed photos of earlier generations hanging on the wall of an office.

But there’s also a much, much older tradition to consider – one that dates back centuries.

After all, as company Vice President John Rahner describes, A. Anthony’s concrete mixing follows some of the same essential principles that were established in Roman times.

That includes using Lake Erie sand and crushed limestone from quarries in Michigan and Canada in the concrete mix, in order to guarantee a better product. River/field stone is cheaper, Rahner says, but it’s not as good in our climate for longevity.

The focus on quality is something that the current owners – the fourth generation of the Anthony family – learned from the earlier generations. Rahner’s wife, Peggy Anthony Rahner, is the company president, and other branches of the family are represented as well.

Their Anthony ancestors started the business as a small operation in 1939, and grew the business by adding the batch plant in 1972. That purchase, though originally done out of necessity to get the concrete transported to sites in Erie, proved to be a successful enterprise that continues to boost the company.

Today’s owners still face challenges, including the unpredictable weather that all-too-often dictates the concrete placement schedule. But overall, the Rahners say they are content with their company, and with a business that allows them to create a tangible product for their customers.

“You want a business where at the end of the day, you can say, ‘That was a good day,’” John Rahner says. “And there’s a lot of good days.”

About A. Anthony & Sons: The company, which employs 37 in a full season, operates a ready-mix division, which brings in roughly the same amount of business as concrete placement. The company consumes most of the mix it produces. The majority of the company’s business is in commercial and construction work, though they also do residential work and new building. Some of their work can be seen around the community, including at the Prep and Villa Events Center, the Hagen History Center, and the fountain in Perry Square.

Why Erie County: The business has found a secure footing in the Erie economy. Residents are still investing money in their properties, the Rahners said, In addition, they anticipate an uptick in business as a result of some of the large-scale construction projects cropping up in the county. While the larger concrete firms will likely bid on those big projects, some of the residual work will trickle down to A. Anthony & Sons. Beyond that, the Rahners say, are the characteristics that are unique to Erie. “I’ve lived other places, and you just can’t duplicate the quality of life here anywhere else,” John Rahner says. “And everyone knows your name,” Peggy Rahner adds.

Challenges of Erie County: Some of the challenges that A. Anthony faces have more to do with the nature of the work than anything else. The work requires physical labor, and that can wear on employees – some of whom have been doing that hard work with the company for decades. Efforts to find young, willing workers have been mixed. In addition, the company has found it challenging to work with a bevy of regulations – some on the municipal level, dealing with issues like permits and storm water management, all the way up to agency regulations on the state andfederal levels.

Address: 1450 W. 21st St., Erie PA 16502 or www.anthonyconcrete.com

Purple Peacock, Epiphany’s Emporium and Pipit’s

It’s hard to believe, but here we are at Week 18 of my 50 in 50. This week, I decided to take a break from the usual format. Instead of visiting one business, I visited several – all along the City of Corry’s Center Street stretch.

The timing seemed serendipitous: Last week, when I visited, was PA Small Business Week, and it was also the Corry Downtown Business Association’s first First Fridays event of the season. On top of that, three downtown Corry business – the Purple Peacock Candle Company, Epiphany’s Emporium and Pipit’s – were celebrating their grand openings or grand re-openings.

The Corry Downtown Business Association (CDBA) was formed by a group of Corry small-business owners who were looking for ways to support each other and spread the word about Corry’s downtown shops.

Purple Peacock owner Alice Muir, one of the CDBA’s unofficial leaders, says the group began with several business owners “banding together to see if we could get something to happen.”

That “something” included launching the First Fridays events, which returned for 2017 this past Friday. The CDBA’s 15 members also meet regularly to brainstorm ideas to spur business – such as brushing up on their social media skills – and to offer support to their fellow small-business owners.

Slowly, but steadily, the CDBA is making an impact in Corry. It is helping to promote the idea of shopping locally (by supporting both local business owners and local artisans), and it is reinvigorating Corry’s main thoroughfare.

For Miki Hammond, owner of Pipit’s, the mission is simple: “We all have a vision for our town and what we want it to be.”

Purple Peacock Candle Company

My first stop in Corry was at the Purple Peacock, which recently moved down the block into a larger space.

The room, with signature purple walls and shelves, offers a variety of handmade items, notably owner Alice Muir’s hand-made candles and bath products, which really launched her business. Some uniquely scented soy candles share shelf space with traditional scents, but all – yes, even “Sasquatch Poop” and “Unicorn Toots” – smell uncommonly good.

In addition to the candles, Muir offers refurbished furniture and a variety of home décor items, some rustic and hand-painted by local Corry artists, some offering a touch of whimsy. And, of course, there were peacock statues scattered around, just begging for a selfie.

For Muir, who has owned businesses before, the Purple Peacock is a chance to be her own boss and to sell her hand-made products in a storefront, in addition to in her Etsy shop. And the CDBA is a chance to connect with other businesses and to see her store, and the Corry community overall, thrive.

Purple Peacock Candle Company: 109 N. Center St., Corry, 16407 or www.facebook.com/purplepeacockcandles

Epiphany’s Emporium

My next stop in Corry was at Epiphany’s Emporium, an eclectic little shop that was celebrating its grand opening.

The store is next-door to the Painted Finch Gallery, a favorite shop of mine. Epiphany’s Emporium is owned by Painted Finch owner Wendy Neckers.

By the time I made my way into Epiphany’s, the crowds had started to flow in. A big draw at Epiphany’s was the taste-test table set up in front of a wall of uniquely flavored craft soda pops.

Valerie Beckerink, who manages the store for Neckers, her sister, expertly described the different flavors – some of which come from as far away as England.

Aside from the pop bottles, Epiphany’s offers an array of interesting items, including whimsical clocks, fun handbags, and exquisite journals and pens. One corner features a variety of art supplies, and racks near the register display handmade greeting cards.

While some of the items in Epiphany’s are made locally, Beckerink says she would like to see more items originate from Corry-area artisans.

Epiphany’s Emporium: 34 N. Center St., Corry, PA 16407 or www.facebook.com/EpiphanysEmporium

Pipit’s

My next stop was Pipit’s, where owner Miki Hammond was setting up the store for a children’s fashion show that was planned for later in the evening.

Pipit’s was celebrating its grand re-opening, after moving up the block to a larger space. I also got to chat with Miss Erie County Dakota McElravy, a Corry native who was on hand for the grand re-opening.

Looking around the shop, it was clear to see Pipit’s specialty: Children’s clothes – specifically, adorable handmade frocks for little girls.

Hammond sews the pieces, and even has a workshop set up in Pipit’s so customers can watch her work. The pieces are not just professionally done, they are also one of a kind.

She also has cultivated a presence online, providing personal service to customers near and far.

Hammond is proud that her enterprise, just a few years old, has already expanded into a larger space – and she hopes that one day, she’ll be able to expand again, including by hiring staff to help with the sewing. It’s a dream, she says, to one day be able to provide good jobs in her community.

Pipit’s: 36 N. Center St., Corry, PA 16407 or www.facebook.com/PipitsDresses

A. Duchini Inc.

A. Duchini Inc. has been a fixture on Erie’s east side for generations. That legacy was evident as we toured the site.

Inside the office, current owner Jim Duchini describes the people and places in the black-and-white photos that hang on the walls. His grandfather, Italian immigrant Avellino Duchini, founded the company in 1932, and his father and uncles later took over the business.

Outside in the brickyard, Jim Duchini points out a building that was in one of those old photos. Inside a storage area, he points out rows of molds – still used on the site – that were made by a company run by a man posing in one of the old photos.

That history continues to influence A. Duchini Inc. now, 85 years later. Jim Duchini talks with pride about how the company donates block to build baseball dugouts in honor of his uncle. That’s just one example of how A. Duchini Inc. has given back to the community – and to other companies.

Jim Duchini is forging ahead with the same principles that guided his father and grandfather: Create a quality product. Serve the customer. And give back to the community.

About A. Duchini Inc.: The company got its start thanks to the entrepreneurial drive of Avellino Duchini. He was an experienced mason, and when the company stopped making blocks, he bought the machine and started making hand-molded blocks himself. The company now uses much higher-tech machinery to produce products including block, bricks and pavers. The company also manufacturers specialty masonry that is more energy efficient. The company sells real and man-made stone to both construction firms and homeowners; sells and installs fireplaces; and also operates an Ace Hardware store on site.

Why Erie County: Avellino Duchini ended up in Erie, where he had family members, after he came to the U.S. from Italy in the 1920s. It has been home for the Duchini family ever since. Today, A. Duchini Inc. has deep roots in the community, with its products present in many familiar buildings around the area. Current owner Jim Duchini is a third-generation owner; his children, who are also involved in the company, represent a fourth generation of Duchinis in the family business.

Challenges of Erie County: Building regulations, and in particular the inspection regulations that are used by the city of Erie and other municipalities in Erie County, have been hard on the company’s business, Jim Duchini says.

Fun fact: The A. Duchini Inc. facility is capable of producing tens of thousands of blocks per day.

Address: 2550 McKinley Ave., Erie, PA 16503 or www.duchini.com

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