Adding independent retailers to the mix: Part 1
Kimco’s properties have a large and diverse independent retailer presence. These retailers have built their business from the ground up and attract loyal customer bases by excelling in customer service and offering unique products.
In this two-part series on independent retailers, we’ll take a look at Suburban Square in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, one of our flagship properties and a great example of small businesses holding their own in a tenant mix. In addition to a Trader Joe’s, Soul Cycle, Urban Outfitters, and multiple other restaurants and big name retailers, Suburban Square has a vibrant roster of independent retailers. From luxury clothing boutiques, like Delsette, to local purveyors stationed in the Ardmore Farmers Market, these businesses have planted roots at Suburban Square, where they like its historic reputation, main street feel, and the quality of customers that come through daily.
We recently spoke with three independent retailers at the property: Adina Birnbaum, owner of gifts and apparel boutique El Quetzal; Leslie Woodward, co-owner of jewelry store Dandelion; and George Breslau, owner of custom invitation and stationary shop The Paperia to hear more about their experiences as small business owners.
Tell us about your store and how the business came to be.
Adina Birnbaum (El Quetzal): El Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala and it’s also one of their monetary units. The first store opened back in 1963 and when it started, it was all Guatemalan imports. We’re actually the third set of owners. We took over a little over 21 years ago. We have beautiful art and pieces in a gallery setting for an affordable price, and we work very hard to be able to bring that to our customers.
Leslie Woodward (Dandelion): This is our 50th year of business. Dandelion was started by Beth, my mother. It was a flower shop in Kennebunk, Maine, in 1966 and then she moved it to Philadelphia as more of a gift store in 1969. Over the years, it morphed into jewelry.
George Breslau (The Paperia): Our first store was open in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. My wife grew up in the area. There were four card stores, but they were all catering to an older crowd, so she came up with the idea of a contemporary card store. We went to every store in a 60-mile radius to see what they were doing, what they were carrying, and how they displayed it and we created our own shop as a result of all those things. We also offer custom design and printing services.
How long has your store been located in Suburban Square?
Woodward (Dandelion): It’s been there as long as I can remember. My sister, Lellie, who is my business partner, and I bought the business from Beth, our mother, five years ago. And I think that it’s been in Suburban Square at least 25 years. It could be as many as 30.
Breslau (The Paperia): Suburban Square came along and offered us a spot 26 years ago and had a great reputation. It was a very upscale environment as far as retail stores were concerned and we knew it had a big draw, so we checked it out. We found that the customer counts were good and it was a good location because it was on a main street, so we knew we would be getting a lot of foot traffic.
Birnbaum (El Quetzal): We moved into Suburban Square about five and a half years ago. All of the owners have grown up in the area, so we’ve always known about Suburban Square and shopped there since we were young. It was always a center that we had our eye on for expansion because we love that it’s like a main street, it’s not a mall. And for the mix of retailers. We thought we would add a lot to the mix.
What is your typical customer like?
Breslau (The Paperia): Eighty-five percent of our customers are female, ranging from 18 to 65 in age, typically. They’re primarily interested in custom invitations and what we’re carrying in the gift line. We try to update and come up with new things for customers. Most men come in on holidays looking for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day cards and gifts.
Birnbaum (El Quetzal): We really appeal to such a large age range and that’s one of our main focuses. We have people from 11-years-old to 90-years-old who shop with us on a frequent basis. We get new things every single week, and we’re constantly changing and updating, whether it’s new clothing or new little gift items. Almost everything is under $100 with our lowest price point being $3.95.
Woodward (Dandelion): Our customers are amazing! They are incredibly generous and they’re great people. They’re professional women, whether they’re out working or working at home taking care of their families. They’re fashionable, well-educated, and socially conscious. It’s an incredibly diverse socio-economic group of people that come and shop in our store. We’ve had people that have been shopping with us since they were teenagers, so we have a long-time customer base. The average age, I would say, is between 25 and 70.
What are your busiest times of the year?
Birnbaum (El Quetzal): Definitely Christmas is our busiest time. But, unlike many other stores, our second busiest time is actually summer time. It’s because our clothing in the summer is just so phenomenal, but Christmas is definitely our busiest season.
Woodward (Dandelion): Of course, winter holidays, Chanukah and Christmas time, followed by Mother’s Day/graduation season because they’re in the same May-June time frame. Our store at Suburban Square is only 635 square feet and it’s packed during Christmas time.
Breslau (The Paperia): Christmas is our busiest, then Valentine’s Day, then Mother’s Day, then Father’s Day, then graduation season, then the smaller holidays, Jewish holidays, St. Patty’s Day, and Administrative Professionals’ Day. We cover the holidays that the card companies provide for and we have a whole line of blank cards, as well.
Do you have any favorite or most popular products in-store?
Woodward (Dandelion): We have some new artists I’m really excited about that are coming in for this season. Polly Wales, who is originally from England and recently moved to California. Jamie Joseph is another favorite, as well as Suzanne Kalan. Everything we carry is so special and wonderful, I can’t help but like it! I’m also really excited about the new stuff I’ve just brought back from Thailand. It’s really good gift pricing and is in stores now.
Breslau (The Paperia): We’ve been a platinum Crane & Co. dealer ever since we’ve been at Suburban Square, which very few places are carrying especially as far as engraving is concerned. Crane has come out with new products that are very unique, especially for Crane. They have paperweights and custom stationery with very limited runs. This time of year, we’re right in the midst of new Advent calendars, wall calendars, and datebooks. There’s also been a resurgence into letter presses, so we have a lot of people coming in for letter presses.
Birnbaum (El Quetzal): During the Christmas season, we get a huge array of beautiful ornaments in our store, some of which are hand-blown glass. We work with five different artists who hand-blow glass ornaments. We also have little shell ornaments and different animals and angels, and a beautiful variety of ethnic and handmade objects that are really a nice addition to a tree.
Stay tuned for part two where we’ll dive deeper into the business and marketing side of independent retailers.