So old crazy Aunt Nettie has passed on, and she’s gone and left her favorite niece/nephew/godson a buttload of money. A buttload to your broke self, anyways: a couple hundred grand ain’t what it used to be.
What to do with this $78,452 windfall, or, what’s left after the trip to Vegas, paying off the credit cards and student loans, buying the new car for cash and the online shopping sprees? Why, start your own business.
Now is your chance to be your own boss, strike back at the Man, give him the finger, step up and out and grill some juicy steaks on your very own back deck (wrong phrasing, but I’m a little hungry right now).
Time to open that little gift shop you’ve always dreamed about. Or a consignment antique store. Or a baby and toddler fashions boutique, or maybe even a quaint used book store, it’ll be so cute and perfect….
Just stop it. Those ideas are walking dead, zombie stores in the making. Strip mall tenant records are full of these failed ideas. They spring to life with a nice spanking new “Grand Opening” sign on the grassy roadside strip, maybe a few balloons or flag strings, and a year or two later they’re pushing up daisies. Stop it already with the gift shops, Kupcakz outlets and eBay storefronts. It ain’t gonna work.
Based on purely anecdotal research (the best kind when writing unsubstantiated blog posts), here’s a few solid ideas for small store-front retail, gleaned from our own neighborhood, and guaranteed for longevity. In no particular order of profitability, real or assumed:
#1: WIG STORE
The local wig store has been around for the whole 13 years I’ve been driving past 71st and Memorial. Quiet, unassuming, and still in business. Adventurous dames that want to change their look, stupid vain men that insist on
slapping dead weasels wearing toupees on their head, and truly needy persons with disfiguring hair loss (alopecia or cancer sufferers, for example). All are welcome at the wig store.
#2: CUSTOM BRASSIERES
Writing as a man without these concerns, I imagine it must be hard to get the girls comfortable, and sympathize accordingly. After a kid or two, the bosoms shape-shift into something that well, wasn’t that way before. Enter the helpful custom bra depot. Our own local neighborhood is the in the worst retail location possible, off the main road behind the Japanese sushi place, and yet, it’s always busy. Again, it’s been in business donkey’s years.
#3: FABRIC / SEWING / YARN STORE
There’s something about fabric that stimulates the deepest female reptilian brain. Gotta have it, gotta hoard it. Here’s a niche where the main players like Hancock Fabrics or Joann’s have got nothing on the small Mom-and-Poppers. Little specialist stores with cloyingly cutesy names like The Quilting Bee or the Cotton Patch are usually busy, offer classes and advice, and for high-end high-margin products, can usually be counted on to be the area distributor of incredibly well-crafted imported sewing machines.
#4: COMIC BOOK / GAMER FANTASY CORNER
With today’s passel of arrested adolescents, there’s no shortage of geeky, plaid-clad young men and pasty-faced Goth girls that periodically shuffle from one funky upstairs gamer den to this funky neighborhood store for Pokemon battles or Geeky-OH face-offs. Whatever it is that they do, it must be profitable enough. Our local couple outlets have been around for a long, long time.
#5: SWIMMING POOL SUPPLIES
After dropping forty grand on a new pool, now that sucker’s got to be maintained. Stocking anything from inexpensive chlorine tablets to high-dollar replacement filters, there’s a few here in town that have been making a good living off of homeowner’s desire for the occasional backyard dip. Maybe they’re hip on ecommerce tips, or they might get a cut from every pool contractor they refer. Why not, I’d do it.
#6: TROPHY AND PLAQUE STORE
Now that the competitive spirit has been quashed from recreational and league sports, everyone gets a medal! YEAY! While this needlessly inflates the self-esteem of our precious little snowflakes, it also means lots of ching-ching for your local trophy store. Buy assorted tchotchkys in bulk from China and Vietnam, invest a little capital in engraving and etching machines, and learn to love customer service.
7# NAILS SALON
The recipe for success for a nail and/or hair salon seems relatively straightforward. A little capital, modest skills, good location, and good customer service. Even guys can get into the action, without even going to cosmetology school or turning gay. Here’s how: first, marry into an Asian family (a fantasy for many a lonely overweight white guy). Then, after the first flush of the first married years has worn off, listen to the wife prattle on about opening Asian markets or a Chinese restaurant or a nail salon. Resist as much as you can, then give in to preserve the domestic peace. Hire as much of the extended family as the overhead can stand. True story: years ago when I worked overseas, our Operations Manager was married to a nice Vietnamese lady, acquired during his tours in Vietnam. For his retirement, they planned on moving back to Oklahoma. The wife, somewhat younger than her husband, planned to be active in business and open up a….. you guessed it, a nail salon. They did just that, and remain successful to this day. There’s a growing customer base of finger and tootsie nails that need to be shorn and decorated in tasteful and attractive ways.
That’s it for today. We could go on, but you get the idea. Look around your own neighborhood, and see what works and what doesn’t for strip mall retail. Do that. Plan. Save and scrimp. Have a good ecommerce plan. That’s what Aunt Nettie would have wanted.
On second thought and better still, buy the strip mall itself, lease to tenants that will be around for a long while, and become a real estate baron.
This post was featured in the Carnival of Wealth: Slump Busted Edition, over @ Control Your Cash