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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Local Holiday Guide!

Trying to figure out what to get your loved ones for the Holiday is a daunting task in an of itself. Trying to find out WHERE to get it is another story. I've designed this post to help guide you through local businesses that can provide you with all the gifts you could possibly want!

Bob and Ron's Worldwide Stereo!

For almost three decades, Bob & Ron’s World Wide Stereo has been one of the nation's leading providers of emerging technologies, both cutting edge and practical in the consumer electronics arena. With a reputation for integrity and quality, World Wide Stereo has survived the test of time by offering personal service, award winning installations, and competitive pricing. An organization that finds its foundation in the credo, “ Doing well by doing good", World Wide Stereo continues to maintain this philosophy by giving back to the community and providing products that truly do bring families together. A full service custom creative design and installation team brings the finest Audio, Video, Home Theater and Home Integration products to reality. With two showrooms on Rt 309 in Montgomeryville and in the Ardmore plaza on the Main Line, Bob & Ron’s World Wide Stereo continues to exceed customer's expectations

Main Line Hobbies

Main line Hobbies bills themselves as the east coasts largest slot car store! Having brought my kids to the place I can attest to its size and selection. Truly a fun place to go for just spending the day (they have a huge open track that you can run your own cars on), or to take part in their Saturday races. The knowledge and experience in this place is enough to teach even the most experienced slot car racers about new products, building new cars, or even racing. For those wishing to get introduced into the world of slot car racing, or get their kids interested, this is truly the place you need to be. With a full selection of cars, tracks, parts, and even detail kits, you can't go wrong. Conveniently located on Hannah Ave in East Norriton.

Francesco and Giovanni Salon

For that special someone in your life. Whether it be your mom, your sister, your wife, or even your husband, Francesco and Giovanni offers something for all. Hair cuts and coloring are just the tip of the iceberg. F&G offer a huge selection of spa packages for both men and women. From Bridal packages, to the "Gentleman's Handshake", there's enough to choose from for all of the people on your list! During the Holiday Season, F&G is offering an additional $20 for every $100 in gift cards you buy. They also have a huge line of salon products to add to any stocking! Check them out!

Conshohocken Italian Bakery

Voted the #1 bakery in Philly, how can you go wrong by hitting this place up for Holiday eats? The best rolls, tomato pie, Italian baked goods, cookies, pastries, etc... I almost feel stupid including this in here because you MUST already know about this place! Truly a treasure for those who live in the area!

Chiccarines Fine Jewelery and Diamonds

When I asked about Jewelers in Montgomery County, I kept hearing about this place. Service, quality and customer satisfaction are #1 and it's evident throughout the community. Located in Collegeville, Chiccarines takes special care in helping customers choose the right piece of jewelry and for the right price. They want you as their customer forever, and they go out of their way to make you feel like family.

Tailwind Bicycles

Way up in Schwenksville, the staff at Tailwind can help you with all of your questions. Located on the Perkiomen Trail, Tailwind specializes in mountain bikes and road bikes. With over 300 bikes in stock, they will certainly have no shortage of models from the beginning rider to the most experienced. They can service anyone and everyone, from children's bikes to high end road bikes. They also offer lessons, rentals and gift certificates for the riding enthusiast in your life! Check out the site for everything they offer!

Check back tomorrow for more local businesses and gift ideas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to all of you out there. This is truly one of my favorite holidays.

I've been working on a post the last few weeks. I've had discussions with some pretty smart people. Professors, Finance folk, and just some pretty brainy people. The conversations centered around the economy.

The question I am asking is what has more impact on the other... The global economy on the local, or the local economy on the Global?

Arguments could be made for either, but what I am finding out is that the answer is more important (and complicated) than you think.

I will also be spreading the word this entire month about where you can go to do your Holiday shopping LOCALLY! If you don't already know, there are some pretty cool places to go find the perfect present for your loved ones! Everything from electronics to clothes!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's the process man!

I've written about this before and probably will again, but it never ceases to amaze me... that is the power of an idea with a dose of passion, a smidgen of ambition and the right approach to defining and achieving their goals.

When someone gets an idea in their head, and really focuses on the possibilities, the outcome only becomes dependent on effort. The freedoms we have within this country make the success of these ideas possible. Not the success, but the ability to achieve that success. But why are some successful and some aren't? It's the process put in place to achieve the end game.

In my travels this past week, I ran into 4 specific people from my past. All had spent years embarking on a journey to see their ideas come to a realization. In all cases they were ideas turned into business opportunities. One was a product, two were a service, and the 4th was based on delivering content to the masses. What they are isn't important. What is important is the approach they all took to achieve their goals.

In all cases strategies where defined, objectives where stated, and tactics where implemented to realize their goals surrounding their IDEA. The highlighted statement is what all four spoke about WITHOUT using those specific words.

It's a process that is utilized everyday by the most successful businesses/companies/people. It's a process that gives the idea the most chance at success. In fact if you can define each one, the only way you fail is if you don't do the work. It's what separates the successful from the ones that never really achieve full potential.

It simplifies the complex to allow results in the most efficient manner. It's what I see everyday in local business. It's how they win. It's how they are successful, proven time and time again.

When an idea, goal or initiative is approached in this manner, success is easier achieved. More importantly, success is more clearly defined and measured as well. It also allows you, or makes you think smarter about your business enabling you to take your idea further, or on a larger track if so desired.

That process isn't only relegated to the business world either. You can and should use it in everyday life. Let's look at an example...

Two different families think about taking the family to Disney World next year. Both need to save for it because neither will have the disposable income come next fall.

One family marks it on the calendar and says "We think we can make this happen, we'll discuss it after the holidays". The other starts the process.

IDEA: We want to take the family to Disneyland next fall.

Objective: Have enough money and time to be able to do so

Strategy: Cut expenses, earn more money

tactics: Less eating out, smaller birthday parties for the kids, get a part time job, have a garage sale, sell other things on ebay/ craigslist/ classified ads, smaller Christmas this year

Which family do you think has the better chance of getting to Disney world next fall? The family that started the process is almost halfway there. They still have questions to ask, such as how much will the trip actually cost, what options are available, how long can they go, how much will they have to save/ earn/ etc, to make it happen. But the process has been started, and they are building a road map to achieve a stated goal.

Now, nothing gets done without doing the work. The process however, defines the work that is needed. It doesn't create unnecessary work, rather it clearly defines the work that is needed to achieve your goals.

The best small businesses utilize this process everyday. Whether they want to expand, add a product line, build a larger building, add more employees, whatever. The process allows them to do it intelligently and do it smarter.

If you have an idea (I don't know anyone who hasn't spoken about something they wanted to do as a business), start to think about it in this way. You'll be amazed how real it becomes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conshy Has a New Gig!

Conshy has a new venue for all you bar hoppers out there! Actually, that statement is pretty unfair to the new place that opened last Friday. It's more than just a "bar". I think it will redefine Conshy and it's night life.

8 East opened up in the same spot that E.Y. Toads use to occupy. Let me tell you... it's no Toad's.

Bob Storti and Brad Craig figured at some point in their life they would like to open a restaurant/ bar and provide a hip and fun place for the local community. I can tell you personally that Conshy has never seen anything like this. It's certainly not the standard fair that has occupied Conshy in the past.

After 4 years of work and more than $500, 000 in renovations, Bob and Brad have realized their dream. I was at opening night on Friday and the place was a madhouse. With two bars and two dining areas (one each, both upstairs and one downstairs) the place is Bangin'! Seriously, look at the pics below.

The menu is fantastic and more than reasonable. I had the Black and Bleu sliders and were unbelievable. The bar is stocked with top shelf liquors and a multitude of beers as well.

"We really wanted a very modern and hip place for people to come out and enjoy. We worked really hard to make it exactly as we envisioned it.", said Bob Storti.

The pride these guys took is evident in the design and construction of the entire place. In fact, the work was done solely by the partners. Having a background in contracting helps, and being someone who used to go to Toads every so often, I can tell you that the work they did is really unbelievable. Make plans to go to this place. You won't be disappointed!

Andrew Davis, a frequent Conshy visitor from Manayunk said, "Seriously, we've been waiting for a place like this to open in Conshy. It's really nice, in a great location, and rivals a city bar in it's atmosphere and design."

I spoke to several patrons there and all were more than satisfied. It's been a long time coming, and now you can finally experience it yourself!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Catalyst Marketers... Innovation at its best

One of the most granular questions about starting a business is what value does the product or service offering you are selling bring to the market place? What is it about that product or service that will stand out above your competitors?

Ryan Taft, founder of Catalyst Marketers in Chalfont, PA asked himself that question before starting his company.

"I had a really big desire to show local and small business how to take advantage of technology and new media to help grow their business", said Ryan.

With the emergence of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare, businesses really have the ability to gain more advertising for virtually no cost, that may have cost thousands of dollars in the past utilizing more traditional methods.

In fact, they've become so popular, that if your company isn't utilizing these tools, you're way behind the curve, and allowing your competitors to get out ahead of you. Of course, as a small business owner, when you finally decide to sit down and research all of the possibilities, it gets a little frightening. How are you going to learn to do this? Who are you going to get to continue providing content, update status' and constantly tweet?

This is exactly where Catalyst comes in. Ryan started Catalyst Marketers to help small & mid-sized businesses use Social Media and other online marketing tools to reach more customers and prospects, build relationships with those folks, and ultimately drive sales.

Currently Catalyst Clients range from Central Bucks Family YMCA in Doylestown, to National Retail Products producers, and even a slew of auto dealerships. Catalyst Clients outsource their online marketing efforts to Catalyst Marketers. A team of experts in all forms of online marketing, which were brought together to form a virtual partnership that is Catalyst Marketers, help clients build their Online Marketing Plan, as well as, execute their online marketing tactics.

For example, Catalyst Marketers writes blog articles, manages foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, & Flickr, and develops a monthly eNewsletter for Central Bucks Family YMCA. Instead of hiring a team of Marketing employees, which come with salaries, benefits, & tax expenses, the Y outsources this work to Catalyst. The secret to Catalyst's success is that they integrate themselves with each & every client, which makes clients feel like they are part of the internal team. This allows the relationship to thrive.

Most of the online tools out there are 100% free. It simply takes time to learn what tools are out there and available to you, as well as, time to create a plan for using those tools effectively for your business. Business owners who lack the time to do it themselves can find strategic partners like Catalyst Marketers to help them with their Online Marketing efforts.

The coolest thing for me about Catalyst? It's a local business. Check them out. You're business can't wait!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Best of 2010!

Every year the Times Herald publishes a "Best of Montco" list that highlights those local businesses and institutions that are voted best by their staff, the community, and polls that are offered in the paper every so often throughout the year.

You can see the article here.

You can see the complete list here.

Everything from the best attorneys to the best electricians to the best bars are on this list.

It is a great resource for everything you need and highlights LOCAL businesses throughout our area.

Take a look at the list and show your support for these businesses that have done a fantastic job serving the community!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Poker is FUN!

First, let me apologize for being a tad absent. The moral of the story is don't get tonsillitis when your over 21 (or even 40). It incapacitates you and they lied to you by saying you get all the ice cream you want!

I'm better now, so let's get on with it :)

Unless you have lived under a rock, you know that Poker became very VERY popular around 2003. Back then, you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a show that was running a poker championship event, a cash game, or a celebrity poker game. At least 5 movies came out about poker, and everyone and their brother (and sisters) decided to jump in and play Texas Hold'em.

Well for the last 6 years, Riverchasers Entertainment has been providing free to enter Texas Hold'em tournaments in bars and restaurants throughout our area. "We started out taking advantage of the poker boom and were very successful. We built a huge following and acquired a lot of venues who wanted our service. By offering our games, we were able to attract anywhere from 35 to over 100 people a night to any game we held and that held a lot of value to our clients.", said Andrew Griffith, Vice President of Operations, and who has been with the company since the first year.

Riverchasers is like any other form of bar entertainment where the venue (or client) pays RC a fee to host their service for a night. Most venues sign on for a weekly game and their average tenure is over 2 1/5 years. Players can just show up to play, earn points, and qualify for Riverchasers trimester Tournament of Champions. There, players can compete for a chance at much larger prizes such as buy-ins to real casino poker tournaments. They also have numerous other qualifying events throughout the year where players can earn other larger prizes.

Riverchasers has awarded 5 World Series of Poker Main event seats in the last 6 years and numerous buy-ins to tournaments at the Borgata in Atlantic City. Those buy-ins range from $500 to $5,000 entries to real tournaments. "playing free poker on any night of the week and having a chance to win buy-ins to these tournaments is a ridiculous value. If you win a seat into a $1,000 tournament in a real casino, first place in those tournies can reach $200 thousand!", said Tom McMenamin, an avid player of the tour.

Riverchasers isn't only for the hard core player. Most players who attend played their first game of Texas Hold'em at a Riverchasers game. It is a totally social game and they consider themselves the largest social poker network in the state. You can even get lessons before your first game at any venue you attend.

As far as legalities go, Riverchasers works closely with the LCB to ensure that they are operating within the guidelines of the law. The games are free to enter so no gambling is taking place.

In addition to their bar games, Riverchasers also provides corporate and marketing events. They do everything from company holiday parties to large monte carlo nights for local business looking to attract people to their place of business.

To find out how to get involved, just visit their website. There you will find a nightly schedule of events of where you can play. Right now they service all of the Delaware, Lehigh and Cumberland Valleys, and are starting to expand. The website also boasts a forum where you can converse with other players, pick up information on special events, and even find out where you stand among the other players in the field.

The popularity of poker hasn't died off at all. Riverchasers has a database of over 35,000 players to prove that! Get out and enjoy the fun!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fried Chicken!

While driving around the Collegeville area recently, I came upon a place that I hadn't thought of in a quite some time. Speck's was a place I frequented growing up. The food is amazing. So I stopped and ordered a cheeseburger, a bucket of chicken, and some other appetizers to take home to the family. I had forgotten how awesome this place is.

So, as I started doing some research I came across this post. It's a quick read and fully details the menu that Specks offers today. The Landis family has operated the place since it opened and they have obviously have passed more down through the years than just a recipe for good chicken.

50 years and the business is as strong as ever. The tradition and heritage have stood the test of time and the family continues to succeed serving the community.

As a local business case study, this would be a prime example. Create or sell a product that you love, and have a passion for. Serve the community. Continue your tradition by always improving. Pass down through family and employees the experience and expertise you have that has always defined your offering.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Let's Bowl!

For more than 50 years, Facenda-Whitaker lanes has been serving the Moncto area as the number one stop for Bowling. What started out as a 20 lane bowling alley back in 1959, quickly turned into 50 lanes and a landmark for the Norristown area.

Originally, the business was slated to be called Care City Bowlero, but that was changed to Facenda-Whitaker, named after the two premier news and sports casters in the Delaware Valley. John Facenda and Jack Whitaker. John Facenda went on to be the iconic voice of NFL films and Jack Whitaker also took his place in sports broadcasting as well.

Today, Facenda is home to bowlers all over the Delaware Valley. It boasts the highest amount of 300 games bowled in the area. They also offer parties, banquets, corporate events, as well as a very busy league schedule.

In 1985, a sports bar was added, and "Steppy's" has become another area favorite. Whether it be to hang out, watch the game, or just enjoy some chow, Steppy's has become more than just an addition to the bowling alley.

Through the years Facenda has always made improvements with the customer in mind. From bumpers available for every lane to accommodate the younger kids, to scoring computers and screens for the best look and usability while playing your game.

There is an arcade available to cater to the kids during parties after their attention span for bowling has waned, and a pro shop for those that are serious about their game.

The bowling alley is open 24 hours for all to enjoy and I've yet to see it empty. Even at 3am there are always at least 4 lanes filled up and rockin'!

So if you haven't been in a while, or have never been, take the time to go bowl, eat, and party down. There's always something to do at this place.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Le Bus Bakery

What started out as a small bus providing breads for the University of Penn, quickly turned into a successful small business.

Le Bus, located in King of Prussia has been baking and selling their good since 1978. I remember first hearing of them when they opened their retail store in Manayunk, PA. That location is since gone, as the focus of the company has been more on distribution.

First, what do they sell.? Le Bus offers a line of artisan breads, rolls and pastries. Simple enough? Well, not really. What they do offer is the skill and experience in baking those breads to perfection. It is a passion that comes through with every bite.

Once the word got out, and the quality of their product was recognized and demanded, Le Bus started wholesaling their goods to area supermarkets and restaurant chains. Saladworks is a client, so if you ever ate there, and said, "MAN! I love the bread!", well, that's a Le Bus roll you just ate!.

Anyone who knows anything about bread here in PA knows that a good roll has a shelf life of about 12 hours. Once it gets to "tomorrow", the roll or bread has lost it's crunchy crust, and very soft inside. There have been many theories about why this is. It's gotta be the water!, maybe it's the climate here in the east? All we know is that bread is no good west of the Mississippi.

Le Bus, in order to combat that challenge, offers their clients flash freezing. That is the process of literally flash freezing their goods and allowing them to be baked again in order for clients to cut down on waste, and still offer a very fresh product to their customers.

They still offer their freshest products to area super markets. They have a DSD system (Direct Store Delivery) in the area that delivers their products daily so that you, the consumer, can enjoy their products at the peak of freshness.

Currently, Le Bus has 3 retail locations. One in the Reading Terminal Market, one on South St in Philly, and they have the outlet store right on Shoemaker Rd. in King of Prussia.

Aside from offering a high quality product, utilizing old world techniques to fashion their bread, rolls, and pastries, they built and executed a plan to market and distribute a product that is very difficult to do so because of how fast quality dissipates. Kudos to them for solving a problem and being able to service an area as wide as the Delaware Valley.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Building a business on expertise

One of the driving forces behind someone wanting to start their own business is what they have in terms of a skill set. That skill set is usually gained through education and experience in something that they have a passion for.

In the case of King Shooters Supply, that's exactly how it happened. Roger Burris started shooting in 1985 and by 1986 began better bullets inc. Better Bullets was founded out of the need to do exactly what the name implies. Make a better bullet.

He built a round that performed to the highest industry standards. A cleaner, harder, and more accurate round that uses a special hardened alloy to provide better performance. Roger went on to develop and design the process improvements which have been incorporated by the manufacturer of the equipment that the bullets are made by. The bullets are nationally known and are used by Competition Champions as well as law enforcement and gun manufacturers. All told they use about 10,000 lbs. of alloy a month to keep up with production.

In 2003, Better Bullets moved into a larger shop and started King Shooters Supply to provide a retail location. In this location they sell everything from guns, to accessories, to ammunition. They work with local law enforcement and with the county departments making sure everyone is kept up to date on new products, improvements, and technology.

The store meets the needs of every type of shooter. Hunters, recreation shooters, competition shooters, those looking for self defense, and even paint ballers will be well served by the experienced staff. Roger is "papered up" as well with certifications from several manufacturers as a certified gun smith for those specific brands. His qualifications and expertise are well documented by numerous national and local organizations.

So if you are looking for a weapon for whatever reason, ever had an interest in shooting, or are even just curious, you can be sure that your answers will be met by qualified people who are passionate and skillful in the industry.

King Shooters Supply is located in King of Prussia, PA. The retail store compliments their on-line business and they are open 5 days a week. Click the links for directions and their sites!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Realtors are small biz pros

I met some friends at a local watering hole recently and people were talking about old acquaintances and what people were up to these days. One had made mention of a guy who was a Realtor and worked for Century 21. The conversation progressed and I listened to some pretty ridiculous notions about Realtors.

What struck me most peculiar was that this person actually thought that the title Realtor was an employed position. I assume most people know that when one "becomes" a Realtor, it's not a job. It's a business.

The fact is, Realtors are small business people. It's a career opportunity, yes, but you are pretty much accountable for your own success. You get the benefit of being under a National brand that helps lend credibility, provides recognition, and most importantly, training for your new venture, but a a professional, you are your own boss. Your revenue (and income) is determined by your abilities, effort, and knowledge.

Just as any other business owner, it's up to them to put forth the plan, the effort, and the resources to obtain whatever level of success they desire.

Local Realtors understand their communities. A good one will know the laws, the zoning, the properties up for sale, the school districts, the tax base, the bank rates, which banks are actively pursuing lending money, re-fi rates, etc. How is the housing market? Is it trending up, is it trending down, where can you get the best deal, what is the worst deal.

All of this can be found via an internet search, of course, but the local Realtor has it at their finger tips, AND has it locally. They aren't dealing in industry or national estimates. They have real time info directly related to your needs within your area. Having a friend in the Real Estate business is a huge advantage for anyone. You never know what opportunity will come their way, and by you being their friend, could ultimately come YOUR way.

The good ones are some of the hardest working people I know, and they deserve the recognition for going out of their way to attend to every single request they get. Some think it may be glamorous, some think it may be easy. I know from talking to these people that neither apply.

"The best part of my business is when I actually get to a close and the people who thought that owning a home would be impossible, finally realize their dreams", said Bill Frederick, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Horsham. "It makes all that data gathering, site visits, and conversations with banks all worth the while"'

Being a Real Estate agent is a tough business. There is a lot of turn over in Realty. You probably know someone who "tried" it, or someone who hinted at maybe giving it a try, but excuses such as, "it's not a good time to get in the market", or "there are so many of them to compete with" fly around as reasons not to. The truth is, Realty is a tough a job as any out there. Talk to any Realtor you know, and you'll soon find out what it takes.

They certainly aren't employees. They are truly, some of the best small business people around. They know that they can't sit and wait for someone to come in and buy something. It's not a waiting game like many businesses that sell goods. All someone like that can do is stock the shelves, put a marketing plan in place, and open the doors. Realtors have to go out and get their business. And they do it well.

So go pat one on the back next time you see them. They deserve it.

disclaimer: I am not a Realtor :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How do you become a millionaire?

A nickle at a time! That should always be the answer for anyone aspiring to become wealthy. There are no tricks. It's good old fashioned hard work and a little bit of good timing (some refer to this as luck), but the credo stands true.

Ask any financial adviser and he'll say the same thing. Don't look to make a big score. The larger the return the greater the risk taken. But if you get yourself into a good plan, earning a little at a time, steadily, over time, the wealth will build.

Ever notice why there are so many banks in the area? Have you noticed? Next time you stop at any major intersection, take a look. Count them. There is usually one on every corner, and don't forget to count the one inside the supermarket.

WHY do you think there are so many banks? How do you think they make their money? A nickel at a time! All those accounts come with transaction fees. ATM fees, check fees, annual fees, interest rates, monthly fees, etc.

With recent history, banks aren't everyone's favorite monkey either. However, they are a necessary part of our lives. In fact, I don't know how anyone survives in today's world without the use of a financial institution.

That brings me to the point. With the multitude of banks to choose from, there are still locally owned options. Continental Bank is one of those options in our area. Harleysville Bank is another, as well as Alliance Bank. In fact there are many to choose from.

So coming up, I am working on some interviews with local bank officials to find out their philosophies on operating within the community and why it's beneficial to use them versus the larger national banks. It used to be that local banks just didn't offer enough branches to be convenient for their consumers. Not anymore. Branches are becoming more and more irrelevant. With these interviews, I am learning more and more about the advantages of using these local institutions over the larger national ones and will write about them here.

I am also close to bringing the battle of the bakery's post to a close. One more interview and we will have a good "spread" to choose from! Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

Here's wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day! Celebrate Hard! But be safe!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Frosty Falls!

If you've ever driven through Bridgeport you may have noticed the quaint little building that resides right along side the River, across the street from the big red brick building on Dekalb.

That little building is Frosty Falls. A family run business that caters not only those looking for Frosty Treats, but to those looking for a little grub as well.

Frosty uses only the best ingredients in their sandwiches with Boars Head brand meats and Conshy Bakery rolls. They also serve 28 flavors of Hershey Ice Cream as well as water ice and Soft serve.

Sound familiar? Sound like your typical family owned deli style shop that serves ice cream as well? how about the attention to detail they show their customers? Once a week Frosty falls has free train rides for all the kiddies, and being by the river always makes for a cool time.

They are open throughout the spring and summer and most of the fall. Times vary upon the weather but you're certainly missing out if you don't hit this place at least once.

Frosty Falls is just one of those places that the kids need to experience. It's that much fun!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bridgeport, PA - breeding local business

If you've ever driven through Bridgeport on your way to King of Prussia or points south using Dekalb St, you would have noticed a few things.

Bridgeport is sprucing up. Has been for years now. Revitalization has been happening right in front of everyone's faces and it looks to be moving along very well. The city planners weren't going to wait around for a promise from one big developer and hope it happened. Nope, they got straight to it with deals and incentives for new business to come in, and look what has happened. A Bridgeport that looks better and better every day, has new shops, new buildings, new places to live, and the stores and locations that have been synonymous with Bridgeport are thriving more than ever.

Is Bridgeport the new Manayunk? The answer is not yet. But they are getting there sooner than later. What exactly does that mean anyway? Well, if you are from the area you know Manayunk to be this quiet little strip of space along the river close to Philadelphia that got a huge lift and media push when some folks started cleaning up the location and adding new stores. Soon enough it was a restaurant mecca with little boutique shops and markets where people came from all over to spend the day shopping, walking along the river and soaking up some treats provided by the towns merchants.

Bridgeport is heading that way as well. An uplift of traffic to a town is a boon for it's local business. It's kinda like an internet site. Get the right key words out there and have your site land on the first page of any Google search and your sales are bound to go through the roof. have a quaint little town, provide new and exciting stores with great restaurants and eateries, a beautiful setting, maybe some history, and one thing that sparks the interest of the media to promote it via a news piece, and you have a success story like Manayunk.

Manayunk wasn't always the Manayunk you young folk think it was. Manayunk was a dump. Nothing there. Until Core States bank (remember that???) started sponsoring the bike race that just so happened to run through the little town of Manayunk. Someone realized that there was some opportunity there to start promoting business on that little strip of Main St. Fast Forward and there you have it.

So what puts Bridgeport into that category? What opportunity do they have that may catapult them into Manayunk status (Let me pause here. I can hear the mumbles right now from the competitive attitudes out there, "what does Manayunk have on us??...Don't kid yourself, Manayunk is now more of a brand than it is a place to live, eat, or shop)? What does, or what can Bridgeport do to Brand themselves?

Obviously the River is a good start. People love water, and the Schuylkill River is a beautiful stretch of it. If Norristown and Bridgeport could get their heads together I can't imagine what could possibly happen.

The difference Bridgeport has is their community. A community of people that live there for the community. They hold Feasts, own businesses, belong to the fire halls. The geography makes it a little unique as well. Kind of placed in a little valley that gets passed by traffic via the Dannehower Bridge. Yet, they still prosper. Iconic businesses such as the Bridgeport Ribhouse, Frosty Falls, Suzy-Jo Donuts, and Chics Tavern. These are places that have all gone to the ropes to promote not only their own businesses but the community as well.

But what events could be used to attract media interest to show that Bridgeport, from time to time, gets a whole bunch of people trekking through their little village? Chew on that. I might have some answers myself but let's move on for now.

The next couple of posts will be looking at some of those businesses in Bridgeport. Doing the piece on Brubakers got me thinking about this little gem of a town. So leave your comments on which businesses from Bridgeport you'd like to see have the spot light on them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


20 years ago Brubaker's Screen Printing opened their doors in Bridgport, PA. Today they instill the same care to customer service, quality of work, and overall commitment to the community as they did when they first opened.

Residing at 3 E 4th st. in Bridgeport, Brubaker's has come to be a community staple. "We have our book of corporate customers, contractors, restaurants and bars, and we make sure they get what they need when they need it", said Bob Doll, proprietor and general manager since 2000.

Brubaker's handles all jobs from screen printing, to embroidery to advertising specialties such as mugs, pencils, and calendars. "We do all the art work in house and we've always been successful in meeting our customers needs".

They take care of their own as well. Brubakers has done all the shirts for the Mt. Carmel Feast, the Sacred Heart Feast, as well as the apparel for county workers, local police forces, and numerous amounts of sports teams.

"We've focused on being green as well", said Bob. Not having any idea of how a screen printer could focus on the environment, I asked... "Lately there has been an upswing in materials that we use and sell for our products. The textile industry has focused on sustainable and recyclable products such as the materials they use to actually make the shirts. We also use a greener ink that is biodegradable and is made without toxic chemicals.", he explained.

Brubaker's have prided themselves on being prompt, as well as flexible to the community. They take average orders in the 70 range, but also handle jobs that go into the 1,000's as well as being able to handle orders as small as 20 pieces. "We do a lot of family reunions, parties, and such for personal reasons. It's a good indication of our solid reputation that we get a lot of recommendations when they're looking for shirts", said Damien who prints most of the orders.

Stop in and check out the shop as well. All screen printing is done on premise and you get to see how it's done. With a staff of only three, they always get the job done with the best quality results. "It's why we're successful. Of course there are bigger places, but we've built a solid reputation in the area and they always come back. I think that's an indication of the type of job we do.", stated Doll.

So if you are an established business looking for shirts for employees, or are a start up who needs help designing a logo and apparel, or even just looking to participate in a local fund raiser and need a "team" shirt, give these guys a shout. As many others can attest to, you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some clarification!

Since I posted the Battle of the Bakery idea, I have had some emails about the bakery's providing more sweet stuff. Like cakes and such. I guess I should have been more direct!

Both Corropolese and Conshy Bakery are purveyors of the wonderful tomato pie! Both also are very famous for their breads, rolls, and specialty cookies and things of that sorts. Both are Italian Deli's as well.

So, when deciding on who you would like to nominate - for this contest, think along the lines of Italian bakery's providing the likes of sandwich rolls, breads, and other specialties as well.

We'll get to the sweet shops later!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Battle of the Bakery's

With the summer well underway, the 4th of July fast approaching, and if you're life is anything like mine, Christmas being right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to debate the local bakery's.

Where I reside, there are two specific bakery's vying for top spot. Each has their own following based mainly on their longevity, the family tradition, and of course their locale.

The two I am referring to are Corropolese and the Conshy bakery. Both have created their own little niche within their communities as well as area wide.

What I want to accomplish is finding out what other bakery's there are in and around the area and then have a little bit of a contest. This blog hits a wide area, so I want to give the readers from outside the Norristown and Conshohocken areas a chance to nominate their local favorite.

So, leave a comment or send an email. I will be heading out to each location to interview the employees, take pictures, list their histories, their specialties, and even speak to consumers on site to get their advice.

After each bakery is reviewed, I'll do a final post with my opinions on the best bakery's and move forward from there with reader opinions. If you know of a bakery/ deli in your area that you think should be nominated, speak up!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

DIggin' Deep - Part II

In the previous post I spoke about the effects that big box stores and national chains have on the local economy. Conclusions have been made by academia in the past that show how bringing Mass Merchandisers into the local community can actually be bad for the local economy. Of course, numbers and facts can be spun either way depending on which side of the fence you are on, so let's look at the other side. That is, how supporting local businesses effect the community.

First and foremost let's look at the economic impact. Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community. The tax base they create through sales, employment, and real estate taxes go directly back into the community. Small business never gets any sweetheart deals from local government. Locally owned businesses also create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

Locally owned business also impacts the over all feel and support of the communities well-being. When was the last time you saw Target Store #345 take the field against Pizza Mia in the Plymouth Township little league? Local ownership also ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

What I also find intriguing that I think escapes most is the uniqueness or individuality that a community keeps, or even gains when local businesses are the focal point.

For this I have specific proof. If you look at New Hope, PA, or Manayunk, Skippack, or even downtown Phoenixville, all three of these town centers prosper. They do so as almost an attraction. These places are visited mostly on the weekends by thousands of suburbanites as almost a Theme Park. The thing they all have in common? 100% small business and local businesses occupy all four centers.

Now, New Hope is near Peddlers Village, and there are a few outlets there, but for the most part, it's the local businesses that support these "attractions". People flock to these things on the weekends and during the weeks in the summers when kids are off. They are peppered with restaurants and bars, and local clothing shops, candles shops, and book stores.

Why do you think these places are successful? What makes them the attractions that they have become? Is it the feel people get when shopping in a place that offers more of a community feel? You might not realize it but it's the answer I get every time I pose the question.

The point is that the creation of these places have proven that we, as consumers, and members of the community itself, crave this type of experience. We yearn for the feel of community. We want the closeness and the reciprocating support that we give and get, realizing that all of our efforts are being funneled right back into the community.

The benefits of a thriving local economy are many, and obvious. For it is the community that feeds that local business that in turn supports that community. In today's climate, I would think that most would agree that community is needed more than ever.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Diggin' Deep - Part I

When I first started this blog I was thinking along the lines of helping to promote not only specific businesses within our community, but to try and make the case as to why it's important for us as consumers to patronize those local businesses.

I started to do some research and I found some really good resources out there with specific facts pointing to the degradation of local business and as well as a lot of opinion.

National chains continue to displace the small local businesses and they would have you believe that it is symptomatic of our own loss of community.  That may be true in some areas around the country.  It may even be true of some areas in our own community.  With larger corporations who are head-quartered in Montgomery County that tend to hire from outside of the area, bringing in talent from other divisions from out of state, or hiring new graduates from Universities all over the country, they certainly don't help with providing a stable community feel.

These people don't have a sense of community outside of the work place (because they aren't from here), and with the median tenure of all waged and salary employees (according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute) at 4.9 years, they never get a chance to lay down roots.

Local politicians are often lured by the political gain that bringing in a chain store can provide.  On the surface they will point to the new employment benefits and tax revenues that the new store will provide to the community.  Sometimes they will offer public funds or tax rebates to do so, but they will often ignore the greater costs in doing so.  Those costs include new road development, safety measures, and the fact that the jobs that are actually being created are lower paying part time jobs eventually displacing higher paying full time jobs from the business that is now going to have to slim down or even close up shop with not being able to compete with the new national chain.

Barnstable, Massachusetts performed it's own study to asses the local impact of national chains and concluded that it actually cost the tax payers more money providing those services and tax breaks to even get the chains in than would return to the community.

Of course there is then the question of where does the money come from to support these big chains?  According to the American Independent Business Alliance, a 1995 study of new Walmart stores across the country by Iowa State professor Kenneth Stone showed that 84% of Walmart's sales simply shifted dollars away from existing local businesses.  This included existing chain stores as well. 

He did yet another study on Home Improvement Stores in 2001 and concluded, "Is it fair to give taxpayers' money to big corporations that will then use it to help put existing firms out of business?"  Another  issue with Home Improvement Stores specifically is that they develop whole shopping centers that attract other chains to gain as much market share from the community as they can, therefore bolstering their profit margins. 

These larger stores have also focused on real estate.  In fact it could be said that Walmart, Home Depot, and even Wawa are now more interested in their real estate business than in providing 2x4's or coffee.  Not only are they making it hard for the local business to compete, they are buying up community land.   It's important to understand how vicious a cycle this can be.  When empty land is purchased it provides much needed real estate taxes to the township which were never realized before.  So it's understandable for a community politician to think that this can only be a good thing. But at what costs to the community?  How are those added tax revenues being used?  Are they going to the schools?

I don't want you to think that I am making a political statement here, nor am I suggesting that these national big box stores are the devil.  After all, we do live in a capitalist country.  One that I subscribe to and enjoy.  Anyone can start their own business, anyone can grow it to their abilities.  Survival of the fittest, and all that stuff.  What I am doing is laying the ground work to show WHY local business is the most important thing to focus on in our economic climate today.

In the next installment of this series I will be posting some facts pointed to small business.  What it does, what it creates, how it effects the community, and why it is important to understand those aspects and what effects the life of a local business has on the community it resides in.  

Monday, June 7, 2010


As I was combing through Facebook this morning I saw a status update from the fan page of Norristown Businesses/ Events.  The question was, who has the best water ice?  Buddy's was a favorite in my youth.  Marcy's also was a good one, but long since forgotten (Water Mellon was the best!).  Of course these are Norristown Specific so if you have your own local favorite, post them here in comments.

It's funny how many memories something as simple as water ice brings back.  Via Veneto was also listed as a possibility and that brought me to the basis of this post.

I wrote in a previous post how Via Veneto has the best Sicilian pie around.  Because it was a pizza post I left out the part of their business that has allowed that family to flourish.  That is their water ice.  So much so that the water ice division has their own website.

In 1976, the very first scoop of water ice was presented to friends and the the two brothers, Domenico and Natale, along with their cousin Vito knew they had something special.

Today, they sell their product all over the country in malls, stadiums, amusement parks, coliseums, golf courses, marina's, and the list goes on.  For more than 30 years they have manufactured, packaged and shipped from their production facility in West Norriton, PA.

The product is sold locally in numerous pizza shops, restaurants and deli's.  They also produce a private label product which is sold in supermarkets across the country.

This is truly a success story of how a local pizza shop seized an opportunity based on their passion and expertise.  With the success they had locally, they knew that with the right business model, they would be able to distribute their product on a much larger scale.  With 5 wholesale distributors, Via Veneto water ice isn't only available to us locals!

The water ice business has been very good to the family and yet, you can still see the Brothers working at the pizza shop.  Located on Markley St. in Norristown, they still stay true to their roots.   Regardless of your choice for the best water ice, I think it's clear that the most successful is Via Veneto's!  If you are reading this I can't believe that I would even need to say this, but if you haven't, get out and try this product.  With over 26 flavors you won't be left short of options!  My favorite?  Black Cherry!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Local Business Spotlight!

In the next few weeks this blog will be getting a slight overhaul.  Mainly in appearance but also in functionality where you will be able to request a write up on your favorite business.  You'll also be able to find a write up that has already been done on a specific business, and you will be able to add your own input or review on those business that have already been spotlighted.

While that is going on you, I will be traveling the county finding new businesses to spotlight.  If you know of any that have a specific place in your heart, or a place that you know has been around and really takes pride in their community, leave a comment here or email with your suggestions.  I'll be out and about taking pictures, interviewing the owners and customers as well getting input and feedback about what makes them who they are, their part in shaping the community, and how they have managed to do so.

Feel free to add what you would like to read more about as well.  This is for the community and what will make it a better, stronger, more independent economy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A person is smart...People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals

I love that line.  Can you name the movie?

I read a Facebook status update yesterday from a friend who was interested in how others could still support BP Oil.  Why not drive the extra 5 minutes or spend the extra $0.10 a gallon please?

One of the comments left was...  People blamed Bush, and now Obama for unemployment in this country while they drive to Walmart.

I thought that was pretty profound actually.  Not really relevant to the original post but insightful nonetheless.  It's also something that goes unnoticed in this country.  It's the same reason why people are still going to BP.  Convenience.

We have ridiculous lives today.  We really do.  We work more, we work harder, we have less kids than previous generations but ten times the amount of activities.  Every second is sucked out of our schedules by exterior forces and we struggle to keep up.  Convenience has become a staple in our lives.  With the pressures to keep up it's almost unavoidable to seek out the easiest and quickest way, and that is what drives our decision making when it comes to purchases more than anything else.

The country, and world for that matter, is now more than ever in a crisis.  Thought the banks going under and broke were an issue?  How about entire governments?  Who's next?  What's next?  For most it doesn't seem to matter too much as long as their bills are being paid, their kids are being fed, and being able to pay for college is starting to look a little more palatable.

I look back to something my grandmother told me a while back.  When there is a big hole, start with little tiny stitches from one corner.  Start by making it strongest in the little spot first, then work your way out from there.  Now, she was talking about a tear in my football jersey, but old people suffering from a little senility often offer the best advice.

We as people can't affect the global situation ourselves.   We're dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.  As a person, we are able to start within our own communities.  Participating, getting involved, supporting local businesses and therefore the local economy.  That is how we will, as people, be able to effect change that will have immediate impact on OUR lives.

Local business leaders have always taken on that challenge.  I've had debates about who are leaders are within the communities.  The obvious answer is the elected officials.  Those who affect policy, etc.  I will tell you that while I appreciate those who are in office, I view the local business men and women as much better leaders.  Not one that I have spoken to or have interviewed for this blog have denied their responsibility to the community.  They all understand their role in driving the overall growth of each local area, not just in economics but by helping schools, churches, and community centers.

These people are doing their parts.  We should do ours by supporting them.  For it is within the local communities where we must start to take control back for the sake of our future.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!!

On this day In 1868, two women simultaneously placed two wreaths on the graves of a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier celebrating the very first Memorial Day.  A day to remember those who fought so bravely and who sacrificed their lives for an ideal that all men could be free, equal, and pursue happiness in their own way, how they saw fit.

Today, Memorial day is celebrated with friends, family, neighbors.  Community is what is important as each township or borough share the day with parades, fireworks, and cookouts.  It also is the unofficial start of the summer as many travel to the shore for the first time in the year.

Enjoy your time with your loved ones.  Play horseshoes, have a wiffle ball game, horse around in the pool, or on the beach.  Just remember to think about, and honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy this way of life.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Home Improvement!

One of the best things about living in this area is the amount of qualified tradesmen who reside and work here.  You'll have a hard time finding someone who grew up in this area and doesn't have someone in their close group of friends or family who isn't a home improvement pro.

This area is home to a bunch of local and national developers, as well as those family businesses that have served our communities and have thrived over the decades.  We trust them, we count on them, we look to them for help and advice.

Some donate their time  and materials to local churches, charitable groups, schools, and communities to help build parks and picnic areas.  They own an integral piece of the community having built the homes and the facilities with their own hands.

What I love to see the most is how this industry has grown with the younger generations.  The two friends in high school who started out cutting lawns for extra money a few years ago now operate a successful landscaping business.  The ones who opted for vo-tech school and learned carpentry or mechanics and went on to work for an uncle or friend of the family doing oil changes or framing houses learning  a skill and eventually building their own business.

DIY has become it's own industry in the last decade mainly because of cable TV shows and the internet.  Folks like doing jobs on their own and gain more confidence from these two media outlets.  They take on jobs from planting trees to renovating a whole kitchen.  The real pros have adapted to this and have put together offerings to not only stay competitive, but to be there in times of trouble so that you, as the homeowner, don't risk your single largest investment.

Some of the guys I depend on specifically are guys I met through family, and will always call on when I have the need.  Jimmy Fazio is a plumber who grew up in this area and had raised a family of his own.  Jimmy is always available with at least sage advice before he gets there.  He's not one to make a house call, just because you called.  His experience is impressive and always gets the job done. 

Paul Pisano is Contractor from Norristown who has served this area for close to 50 years.  Now ran by his son Joe, they specialize in masonry and concrete.  The Pisano's recently rebuilt the stone wall for Holy Saviors Church in Norristown, and have worked hard for their reputation in  our area.

Since 1975 Dan Moore tree service has been servicing the area when it comes to storm damage, removal of trees, and complete tree care.  He has all the necessary equipment to handle the largest jobs and has been a fixture in the community.

These are local guys who I have used and have had experience with but there are so many more from Abington to Lansdale to Lafayette Hills.   If you know of others, leave a comment.  There are many companies out there that do a fantastic job and since this is what this blog is about, let people know.

Leave a comment or email me if you know of a company that does great work and you think they should have the spotlight on them.  This is what this space is for!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pizza BABY!

It's time for my favorite subject.  Pizza!  I mean, c'mon.  If there is one thing this area has is awesome pizza.  The types differ as well.  See this is why no one ever has the best Pizza contest either because there isn't exactly one best pizza.  The tastes and textures and varieties are so different that it's really hard to pinpoint one Best Ever!

Well, I am going to give you mine.  Oddly enough they are all from this area as well.  See, when I was younger I traveled all over the US.  Yes, I have literally stepped foot in every state in the nation with the exception of Hawaii and Alaska.  And in all of those states I ate pizza.

I have arguments from friends about this as well.  Whether we are sitting around the poker table, or stopping home from playing golf, the question always is, Where's the best?  So I am going to give you some categories and then report with my favorites.

Sicilian Pie - This is my favorite category.  I love this thick square heavy slice of pizza.  I think it goes back to the days of growing up where dad would take me to work with him in the summers and we would hit Via Venetos for a slice of Sicilian at lunch.  That and an RC cola (still my favorite cola!).  Padrinos in the  Fairview Village Shopping Center has a very good Sicilian as well and these two differ very much in taste and texture.  Padrinos is a little lighter and fluffier while Venetos is a heavier, meatier texture to it.  Pizza Mia also has an awesome pie and regardless of how huge their menu is, I always get the Sicilian when I am there.  Usually as an appetizer :)

Neopolitan - This one is your standard triangle slice of heaven.  So many different ways to go with this pie.  extra cheese, meat, you have buffalo chicken, bbq chicken, cheese steak pizza, white pizza, Hawaiian pizza, etc.,  but for this one I am going straight plain neo pie.  Tony and Joes in Conshohocken makes a real nice one.  The sauce is just right, the dough is tender, and it's always cooked to perfection.  Main St pizza has been a real hit lately in the neighborhoods.  With two locations they deliver to a wide area and their pies are very good.  I like their sauce as well and the slices are big.  Angelo's in King of Prussia is another Gem.  Seriously this place is as close to the benchmark as you get. The slice just has that "thing" to it.  That little something that tells you it's more than just sustenance.  It's more than just a snack.

Red Top Pizza - If you don't know what a red top pizza is or haven't taste it...  I want you to stop what you are doing, get in your car, and drive to either East Norriton or Bridgeport now.  Not tomorrow, not after work, NOW!  A red top pizza is a pie that is built like  a regular pizza, only at the end they drizzle on this incredibly dark, sweet sauce, usually concentrically from the center and it is out of this world. Charlies is in East Norriton and Franzone's has a location in Bridgeport.   Both are ridiculous.

My winners are real easy as well.  for Sicilian I'm going with Via Venetos.  Call it nostalgia.  Nah It's the benchmark for all Sicilian pies across the country.  For the best neopolitan slice I'm going with Angelo's.  Seriously, it's that good.  For the best red top  - I can't really say.  It's a toss up in my book.  They both have their own distinct flavor and honestly, it's too close to call.

Now, this is all about me.  What I like the best.  Leave your comments with your own. Add who you want, and suggest others.  State your case, and I'll head out and give it a critique.  Chances are I've already been there, but it would be nice to have an official excuse!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gift cards aren't just for Home Depot anymore!

Small business has several barriers when it comes to competition.  Some are local companies or shops that cater to a very small geographic area.  After all, there can only be so many dry cleaners competing for the limited number of shirts produced by the demographics.

Another is larger competitors.  For one, national chains can operate cheaper because of their size.  A foot print of 1,000 stores provides them with the buying power to reduce costs to almost half of what the small business man is expecting to pay for supplies.  Another is the use of technology.  Sometimes the small business person just can't compete with the convenience and other advantages that a larger store has in terms of automation, marketing, and logistics.

One of those advantages is the use of gift cards.  Now, in today's technological climate, it may seem real easy for any sandwich shop or pizzeria or dress shop or even auto detailer to run out to their bank or credit card provider and sign up for that special feature of being able to sell gift cards to their customers.  After all, what better way to up sell, or re-sell services to those who don't even know they need it yet.  Gift cards have come a very long way.  You can go to one of those big chain stores and see a wall full of gift cards from all of your favorite places.  Home Depot, Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Barnes and Noble, etc.

The fact that consumers have access to "shopping" and spending money at these stores WHILE in a Walmart is an advantage alone.  Aside from having the convenience to do so, it's also free advertising.   To a small business owner trying to compete with those giants it seems a task almost insurmountable.

It's tempting as a consumer to just grab a card heading to the check out line because it is that convenient.  I've done it more than a few times while pressed for time and ideas  (think EVERY single Christmas Eve :) ).

What can the small business owner do then to compete.  Having the ability to offer  a card is one thing, and not that difficult to do.  Again, any credit card processor can provide ANY merchant that service.  However, when you consider the costs of the service, the plastic itself, and the actual marketing of the campaign, it can be overwhelming and down right cost prohibitive to the business.

Well along comes W3Giftcards.  W3 is the product of Brad Oyler and his gang of tech junkies who started out building websites and databases.  "We started out a small company just building websites for local businesses.  I quickly realized that they needed so much more in terms of help in marketing and utilizing technology to do so.  Out of that spawned W3Giftcards and we have a vision to not only offer the service, but to help facilitate the marketing for the businesses that use it." said Brad.

The service is an end to end turn key solution, and once it's up, the client can offer consumers the ability to purchase gift cards directly off of their site.  The consumer can even choose different card designs to personalize their gift.  They also provide a Facebook application where you can sell your cards directly off of your Facebook group or fan page so that clients can optimize their marketing efforts and maximize their sales.

From the merchants side, the product is efficient to use in that it allows you to access all of your orders.  You can track sales, those that have been redeemed, and where you get the most traction.   There is also a mobile phone app so that clients can validate and redeem gift cards in case there is no computer or internet connection (think pizza delivery drivers!)

Aside from the product itself, W3 has in place a marketing program to help the client maximize the delivery of the cards into the consumers hands.  Guerrilla Marketing techniques are employed and they will show you how to best market the product so you can get as many in the hands of consumers as possible.  The cost for this service?  How about Zero!  Zilch!  Setting up is free, and W3 doesn't make any money until you start selling cards.  They take a transaction fee per card and is considerably less than your standard bank card.

What excites me the most about these guys is that they themselves are local.  They understand the local economy, and the local community.  For consumers, it's another convenience to them allowing for easy purchases to their favorite local retailers.

For more info on W3Giftcards contact 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Kick-off!

With Memorial Day Festivities kicking off this coming weekend, I thought it would be nice to write about some memories.  Having grown up in this area I can be pretty confident that some of you share those same memories, or at least some semblance of them. 

I specifically remember mom and dad hitting up Suburbia Seafood in Bridgeport for some clams, shrimp, shark or tuna steaks, and in really good years, lobster!  We would also every so often grab a bushel of crabs if we had everyone coming.  In the back yard my older brother would hook up some really cool cooking stations to handle the seafood steaming and grilling and we would have a blast just sitting around playing and talking while he cooked.

Dad would also head over to Reds Barbones for the kegs (both miller and Birch Beer) and other cases of soda (usually A-Treat) in returnable bottles.  I was always excited to bring the cases back and put them up on the steel rollers and slide them into the back.

We'd get hot dogs and hamburgers from DiRenzo's and Mr. D was always there to throw some candy at us.  The rolls and lunch meat and Tomato Pie always came from Corropolese and I can recall the amount of times my dad looked at his watch to be sure to time the arrival at Corropolese just right as to miss the crowd (there were set times to pick up your pies!), yet he never got it right.  

See back then, everything could be had from a local purveyor specialized in what they do..  Today you think of the big supermarket chains, or you think of Walmart, Target, or some other huge mass-merch store (the industry term for that specific channel of stores).

The funny thing is...  Every one of those locations I mentioned above still exist today (with the exception of DiRenzo's).  You can still go and shop at these locations that are so rich in our communities history. 

So this coming weekend, look towards those local businesses for all your needs.  The food, the decorations, the drinks, the desserts.  You might just start creating more memories of your own.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Technology and Small Business

I don't know, I'm an old head and always thought about hardware when people spoke of technology.  Today however, the word, or as it seems to be used more often as, the phrase is indicative of software.  More to the point, opportunity in such things as social media, streaming video, and podcasts.

I recently spoke to Brad Oyler, owner of W3portals and W3giftcards, based out of Phoenixville about today's local business owners and their take on technology.  "In 2000 everybody wanted a website. That's how we started the commpany and that's how we grew.  Today, everyone wants a Facebook page because it's what's on everyones minds and lips.  The issue for small business owners is that they rarely get how to utilize it in a productive manner."

Oyler makes a great point.  Social Media can be a very succesful marketing tool, especially for local businesses.  The local business person relies heavily on word of mouth advertising.  Think about 20 years ago...  I used to bring my suits to Nick the Tailor down on Markley St across from Logan Sq shopping center.  The only way I knew about Nick was through my neighbors.  Sure, I would see his store front everytime I passed but even back then the buildings looked like houses and I really got the sense that Nick didn't want to be bothered.  I was one person who got a reccomendation from a friend via a live conversation. After being extremely satisfied I probably told another 10 friends over the course of the year.

Now, according to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends, and those users create 70 pieces of content a month.  Most of that content are status updates which could be as simple as "YAY! I'm happy!" or, "does anyone know where I can get a pair of pants altered quickly?!?!?!?  Wedding this sat!"

If Nick had a Facebook page he is now connected and immediately outsourced to not just the 130 friends of the one person who "liked" his page, but all of the friends that THOSE 130 friends have becasue yo can see your friends activity!  So what took Nick about a year to get 10 referals from me would get him possibly thousands in one status update that someone else likes!  Oh and the best part...  It's free!

Facebook isn't your only option either.  Twitter has become increasingly popular as people become more dependant on their mobile devices.  Being on the go and having the ability to access the web, email and such is great technology and allows for a better way of life (some would argue more complex, but that's another post).  Twitter allows you to open and account and in 75 characters or less tell everyone about what you are doing.  How that works is people "follow" you and recieve all of your messages as you put them out there.

Twitter is a very useful tool for small business.  You can communicate and broadcast any information you like to your followers.  If you sell hoagies and are having a slow day and want some more traffic, send out a tweet letting everyone know that you are having a special tonight! Free bag of chips, or half off 4 sandwiches or more, or whatever value prop you can think of.  Things like these were never available before because the lack of ability to communicate in an efficient manner didn't exist.  Today, it does and there should be no excuse for not at least researching the capabilities and opportunities it offers as a marketing tool.

The strains on the local business person are many.  Time, budget, resources, and even know how are stressed at every corner.  There is help out there.  Utilizing facebook is easy and fun.  It may be time consuming and as it gets more popular there are rules that are going to be implemented, but the use of this "technology" (there's that PHRASE again) is tatamount to having been able to hire a corporate marketing company to run a $10,000 ad campaign 15 years ago.

Do your research, find out about what works, and get those fan pages and twitter accounts up.  It will be the most effiecient marketing campaign you have ever done and, when done correctly and utilized to it's fullest, offer the best ROI you will have ever received.

If you have any questions on how to best utilize Facebook or Twitter, go speak to a teenager or college student.  This demographic know the language and understand how it works.  If you still have questions...  email me or leave a comment here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blooming Affairs Florists is a local favorite!

This story is truly what epitomizes the spirit of the local business person.  How they come to be and how they achieve success.  More importantly, the fact that what defines success is different for everyone.

I remember way back when working at an office, running a sales force and reading the Times Herald.  Every so often they publish a story on the front page of the business section a story about a new business that has opened up locally.  What impressed me was the fact that the owner was a very young woman who had recently graduated from high school and was embarking on her dreams to own a floral store.

The store was called Blooming Affairs and was opened on Sterigere St. in Norristown.  I had a need for some flowers so I stopped there and was pleasantly surprised at the layout of the store and what type of inventory they had for such a small shop.

Well fast forward 9 years later and they're still here.  Plugging away with many different offerings to the community in dealing with everything from birthday parties to weddings.  Their packages are exquisite and are locally known as professional and quick.  Nothing on the service end of the business is ever taken lightly and they continually go out of their way to understand the needs of their customers.  Whether it's a funeral, a new born, a graduation party or a prom, they have solutions, both trendy and formal to fit every customers desires.

They also offer fruit, candy and gourmet baskets for all occasions.  Whatever it is you need, they will find a solution.  You can call them directly for a consultation and the staff is not only friendly, but expert in their field.  They know from experience what works and what doesn't.  Give them a call the next time you are thinking of doing something nice for that special someone.  You'll be surprised how nice your message will come across!

Blooming Affairs Florists
803 Sterigere Street
Norristown, PA 19401
(610) 272-6088

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remember Norristown Sporting Goods?

When I grew up Norristown Sporting goods, then located on Marshall St. was the place to go for all things sporting goods.  Whenever we needed pads for football, or sneakers for the basketball team, Norristown Sporting goods is where we went.

Today, what used to be known as Norristown Sporting Goods is still owned and operated by the original founder.   Joe Matozza and his family run Sneaker World II.  Located in the Northtowne Shopping Center in East Norriton it's still the thriving family business as it was 30 years ago.  Instead of sporting goods however, they offer a full line of athletic and casual footwear as well as some athletic apparel and accessories.  They also have recently started offering a womens dress line of shoes as well.  "what we carry is based off of our long term experience within this community and what we feel the needs are, and also based on the feedback we get from our customers", said Joe jr. 

I know I've been taking my kids there for sneakers since they were born and with the selection and service they offer, why wouldn't I.  This business truly personifies what it is to be a local business.  They live here, their kids grew up here, went to school here and now help out with the running the store.  It's truly a feel good story.

They have also branched out into doing screen printing and embroidery for team and business uniforms.  You can get apparel made up for family reunions and so on.  It's a nice piece of business to have that supplements their retail location and they do an excellent job. 

Visit their website and take a look.  Then stop in and check out the store itself.  You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Buyin local

 I was in Brooklyn yesterday for a meeting with a technology company relevant to my own small business and I notice something on the streets and in the community while I was waiting for the meeting.  Almost every single business was independently owned and very product specific.

There was a produce business, and meat market, an independent coffee house and a privately owned electronics store.  It was surreal to think that these folks were there by demand and really by proximity to where the consumers lived.  The population helps.  Thousands of folks within blocks of where these businesses were located.  The geography also helped prevent national chains from even existing,  with most national chains requiring thousands of square footage for their store footprints.

So I thought about our community and the issues small business owners face in our area.  For one, almost everyone has to drive to get to their place of business.  The biggest difference for small business owners in the suburbs as opposed to those in an urban setting is the fact that their business must be a destination.  They must be good enough at marketing and their business must create a niche in order to grab the attention of the consumer and entice them to drive past a national chain or larger chain to get them to come to their store.  In the city, the produce market is right there.  the meat market is right there. 

In Norristown, Venezia's Meat Market is a good example of having created a business that is a destination purchase.  I live in East Norriton.  Within 2 miles I can go to Giant, Genuardi's, or Shoprite for my all of my household grocery items.  Walmart is right there as well.  These "super" markets make it very convenient to go grab grocerys, cleaning products, dry goods, etc all in one place.  Most likely while spending the time to do that, I can also buy my chicken, my hamburger, my steaks, etc.

But what escapes most, is the fact that if I drove another mile, I could go get my meats from a local business like Venezia's, get much better quality and pay a lesser price, and I do.  I also go to Plymouth produce for my fruits and vegetables which, again, is another stop, but in the grand scheme of things, is still a better value.  Plymouth Produce is more than just a produce stand as well.  They have ethnic products, hard to find vegetables, spices galore (and economic as well) and a full deli counter where I usually get all of my lunch meat.

Does this really put me out?  Am I really wasting the time when all of this could be accomplished in one stop elsewhere?  The answer for me is no.  Look, I have 4 kids, and at times seems like 100 different activities to cart them off to.  Lacrosse, dance, karate, school!  The fact that I know I am getting better value, better quality and supporting the LOCAL economy is far more important to me than spending an extra 15 minutes getting to these extra places. 

I've heard the argument that these large stores do their part as well in offering employment and by adding to the tax base of the township or community in which they reside.  I don't know how accurate this employment statistic is for all surrounding chains, but in King of Prussia, the mall employee base is almost 70% Philadelphia residents who bus in to work in King of Prussia.  That's a huge number and points to the fact that these larger retail places aren't really helping out our local economy in terms of job placement.

I'm not saying to boycott the larger chains.  Of course they hold value and are good for the local economy and cater to how we now live our lives.  Convenience is a great thing.  I'm just here to point out that local business is what this country was built on and we should all do our part in searching out those that have acted on their dreams, or are working to preserve their families heritage and have sacrificed to maintain our communities with their labor and expertise.  This is also about pointing out what you may be missing.  Better products, better service and an overall knowledge that your dollars are going right back into the local economy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Black Cat Cigars makes it easy!

Black Cat Cigars has been in the area for over a year.  Located right across from the Genuardis shopping center in East Norriton, they cater to the Cigar aficionado and casual user.  Their location is simple yet elegant and very east to get too.

The owners are father (Michael) and son (Sam) and have been in the cigar business for over 19 years.  "We started in downtown Philadelphia but chose to move closer to home."  Black Cat offers a huge selection of premium cigars at a discount and carry's almost every major brand.  From Arturo Fuentes to CAO to their own Black Cat brand there is never a shortage of options.

Their base of operations is in East Norriton, and they do a good business there, but the bulk of their business comes from their online store.  In addition to the cigars they also sell accessories such as lighters and humidors, lighters, flasks, and everything else you can think of to enjoy the finer things in life.  They also offer premium shaving products, knives, Black Cat porcelain, and Thomas Kinkade night lights.

Their location is also beautifully set up with leather couches, tv's, a fireplace, and just an over all feel of being comfortable while enjoying a cigar.  The walk in humidor is jam packed with many brands and styles of cigars never leaving the customer without options.

So, if you are in the mood for a good cigar, or just looking to sit down, watch some TV or enjoy the company of some serious cigar connoisseurs, Black Cat is your spot.

you can visit them at: 

46 W. Germantown Pike, East Norriton PA
Phone: 484-322-0800