by Mary Jo David
You hear it from family and friends, on the radio and in social media. “This year, more than ever, shop local.” The “Local First” mantra has been circulating for years, but this year, while everyone is feeling the pinch in the midst of a pandemic, local businesses seem to be feeling it more. And in the same way countless people are trying to support our first responders during this unprecedented time, shoppers are trying to stay local to help small businesses.
Many small businesses—too many to name—make up the area in and around Stockbridge. One in particular is putting its best foot forward during this holiday shopping season to show that COVID-19 cannot keep a good retailer down. Country Petals, owned by Patty Young and her daughter Sara Dancer, is located at 124 E. Main St. in Stockbridge and is part gift shop, part florist.
This local store just finished hosting its annual Winter Wonderland Open House on Nov. 13 and 14, 2020, and is decked out, from floor to almost ceiling, with holiday treasures, gift ideas, jewelry, and more. For a small shop, it uses every inch of available space to tastefully display eye-catching merchandise. You’d never guess that prior to Country Petals’ opening in 2007, this same property housed a real-estate office in front and a lightbulb company in the back!
While you would expect that a majority of their customers are from Stockbridge and its surrounding environs, Young noted that more of their shoppers come from a little bit farther away, areas like Brighton, Novi, Lansing, Mason, Chelsea, and Jackson, to name a few. “We also get the occasional out-of-staters who are passing through or visiting people locally,” Young explained.
Virtually all of the business for this gift and flower shop results from word of mouth. A Michigan State advertising graduate, Dancer points out that the only advertising the shop does is maintaining its Facebook page, which has more than 1,000 followers.
“It’s a great store!” exclaimed customer Linda Sanders from nearby Gregory. “Sometimes we just stop in to see Daisy (Dancer’s golden retriever pup), but even then we come out with the cutest gifts—candles, socks, jewelry—there’s always something that catches your eye.”
Lou Ann Rowse, a customer who hails from the Plainfield area, is a shopper at heart. Almost like therapy, shopping relaxes her, especially when she finds just what she’s looking for. No surprise, then, that Rowse loves shopping at Country Petals. “They’re friendly and kind, and if you need something special, they’ll order it. The few times I’ve had to return something have never been a problem.”
Young and Dancer’s skills complement each other as Young loves to immerse herself in the gift shop side of the business and Dancer has a passion for all things floral. In addition to working well together, this mother-daughter team works hard.
“Our favorite part of the business is the people,” Dancer said. “We love seeing familiar faces every day and getting to chat with people.” But that’s only half the story. Young and Dancer both work about 60 to 80 hours a week. Considering the storefront is open just over 30 hours a week, that’s a LOT of extra time spent buying, setting up and taking down displays, creating arrangements, minding the books, and so forth.
Revenue-wise both sides of the business contribute equally to its success. “We couldn’t make it if we just had the gift shop or just had the flower shop,” Dancer said. During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Country Petals, like other retail operations, was forced to close temporarily. The closure hit very hard, especially having to be closed over Mother’s Day. According to Dancer, “The profits we make at Mother’s Day get us through the summer months and beyond.”
Aside from the masks worn by Young, Dancer, and customers, chances are you might enjoy a bit of quality time without even thinking about the pandemic as you browse through the festively adorned Country Petals between now and Christmas.
If shopping locally doesn’t provide enough feel-good therapy, you might consider this:
- Approximately $68 of every $100 spent at a local business stays in the community in the form of taxes for schools, infrastructure, and more.
- Thinking about ordering your holiday gifts online this year? Think again: Americans’ love affair with online retail comes at a cost to the environment. In 2018, about 165 billion packages were shipped in the U.S.; the cardboard used to ship those packages equated, roughly, to more than one billion trees.
As for gifting ideas, the proprietors at Country Petals have an important piece of advice: “Shop local whenever you can. It doesn’t have to be with us, just shop local!”