A smile, a hello and a "how may may I help you" are the greetings customers can expect from downtown merchants in Garden City. From the newest to oldest downtown business, each owner is dedicated to providing their customers with a personal service that is difficult to get anywhere else, especially during the holiday shopping season.
For 85 years as of this July, Regan Jewelers has served its customers for those special moments in their lives. On Dec. 26, a young man came in and placed an order for an engagement ring and informed owner Tim Regan that he was proposing that day.
Regan and his staff took the information, and he went to work to create a special ring for this special moment.
In-house service can accomplish things that just can't happen otherwise. Regan said a groom dressed in a tuxedo came into the store just one hour before his wedding, placed an order for a ring and got it.
This is just one example of personal service that customers can get when shopping in person.
Regan Jewelry's holiday season is usually busiest on the last 10 days before Christmas, and this year, shoppers were more focused than in previous years.
"We're quite happy with where we're at," Regan said. "We're optimistic for 2020."
There was a lot of fluctuation in what customers were buying this year. A lot of pendants and rings were purchased and Regan was able to help fill those needs because they can do all the work in-house.
Regan said it was humbling to have support from the patrons and families in the community.
Like other businesses, the jewelry business is changing. What with the internet, Google and Amazon, the jewelry business is evolving. As for the future, Regan just chuckled when he considered where the industry was heading.
Each downtown business has different merchandise and different clientele. Little Britches and Moodz owner Leigh Kepley said those stores had a strange fall but Christmas was good. They also did well at the Holiday Open House, Ladies Night Out and the first day of December.
It was a little sporadic, though, because there are so many places to shop, including the internet.
"It (internet) plays an important part in shopping," Kepley said.
Little Britches doesn't sell on the internet. If it did, it would have to hire another person just to deal with that part of the business. They do use social media, such as Instagram and Twitter, to keep customers aware of what is available.
But it is the in-store merchandise and personal service that they can offer the customer that they can't get elsewhere. It's just a matter of getting the customers to come downtown. Kepley has been in downtown for 36 years and she has seen a change in foot traffic. It is lighter than it has been in the past.
But once costumers come in and see for themselves what is available, they keep coming back because they offer items that are interesting and work hard to keep up with the latest trends.
"I love my customers. They are tried and true and wouldn't go anywhere else," Kepley said.
While Christmas was a pretty good season for Little Britches, its employees are already looking at another busy time of year.
"We're getting ready for prom," Kepley said.
Another downtown store with a unique clientele is Brown's Shoe Fit. For 20 years it has been providing quality footwear and personal service. Shopping season was a little slow, but things picked up on Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday. Things continued to pick up and this holiday season was better for the store than last year's, said owner Jeff Schaffer.
There tends to be no normal in the shoe business, but in general, things are going well. There are changes and innovations and new designs to meet consumers' needs better. People's needs for comfortable footwear is growing so there will always be a place for quality footwear.
Schaffer said the store does have a website.
"We have embraced the internet as a tool and use it to market our product and to communicate with our customers easier," Schaffer said.
As for the future of a downtown business, Schaffer said he was optimistic. The store will continue to communicate with its customers. Part of its success is its ability to fulfill customers' specific needs that can't be addressed on the internet or over the phone.
"There are things that we offer that the internet can't," Schaffer said.
The community has responded to Brown's Shoe Fit as it has to the other downtown merchants by continuing to shop at their stores.
"It's great to have a community that does support downtown," Schaffer said.