In Their Shop: Meet Louise McManus

In Their Shop series highlights inspiring and successful members of the Retailer Inner Circle in their beautiful shops!

Here we find out how they work, some behind the scenes, and they’ll share some of their secrets and best tips with us.

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Tell us about your business – How did you become a shop owner and what type of products/services do you offer?

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I’m located in Upstate NY (just north of Albany), in the original general store building for our little Erie Canal hamlet of Vischer Ferry. Close to everything, but with a “middle of nowhere” feel.

I backed into becoming a shop owner by buying the historic home right next door to the general store building. The general store was in dire need of a renovation and a new business (it had been operating as a tack shop). Long story short, we bought the building with some partners and did a 3-year renovation, after which I opened my business. We are a modern general store and cafe offering homemade baked goods, espresso drinks, breakfast, and lunch. The retail items are mostly gift items, stationery, greeting cards, candles, and more, with a focus on local makers where possible, and with some vintage items mixed in.

Our customers are a mix of locals and “fans” who make a visit to us a part of their weekly routine. We also get newbies every week who have found us primarily through word of mouth. We offer our outside space for private events and have several big public events throughout the year such as concerts, antique shows, and art shows. We’ll be celebrating our 6 year anniversary this December!

 

 

Share a bit of your business journey! What did you do before you opened a shop and why did you open your business?

I helped manage a bridal salon for about ten years prior to opening the store. I also designed jewelry, with bridal jewelry being my primary focus. That was my only retail experience, and I had zero cafe experience.

I’ve always been a creative person, and now I can express my creativity through our product mix and merchandising.

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Any struggles or lessons learned along the way? How do you overcome them?

Yes.

I started with a business partner. It didn’t work out (I bought her out 7 months after opening), and that was a very difficult situation. The lesson learned is that I have the power to handle doing this on my own. Since I didn’t have any cafe experience, I thought I needed to bring in someone who did, despite some red flags early on. I should have trusted my gut, which I now do with all business decisions.

What I’ve learned is that I have a strong inner compass for running my business. I am the CEO, and that while lots of random people like to give their two cents about things we “should” be doing, I have actually done a really good job steering this ship, and will continue to do so on my terms. It’s very gratifying to be the sole decision-maker!

Trust yourself!

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Brag a little about your business, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the sense of community we have built. Our customers are so loyal, and many friendships have been forged at our store. Our store is the heart of this little hamlet, but people also come long distances to visit us because we provide an experience that is so much nicer than the chain stores and restaurants!

We have book clubs, knitting groups, and more that meet here. We had an engagement happen here 2 years ago, and their wedding will take place here in September. I’m also proud of my staff – we’re like family (some of us actually are!). We have a strong bond, and most of my employees stay here until they have to leave due to a move or college graduation.

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Can you tell us what your thoughts are on being a member of the Retailer’s Inner Circle?

I love being a member – it has definitely helped me with the CEO mindset, and to focus on big picture goals. Since joining I’ve really taken the business to the next level. I’ve staffed way up, which frees me to do more long-term planning. I used to feel like I had to be behind the counter every hour that we’re open, but I’ve become more comfortable letting staff handle things. When I’m not there, they do a better job of stepping up and managing, so it’s a win-win.

I’ve also become more comfortable looking at the numbers and setting financial goals. I’ve watched every workshop and master class. I never had the opportunity to speak to other owners of businesses like mine before joining the Inner Circle. I figured most things out along the way, but wish I had discovered a resource like this sooner. However, I’m still learning so much as I go and continue to do so all the time.

 

What are you most excited about coming up for you and your business?

I’m excited for what will be our biggest holiday season ever! Last year we dealt with Covid, which impacted our holiday sales, plus we were forced to shut down the week and a half right before Christmas because a staff member had been diagnosed with it. Even so, our numbers were way up over previous years.

This year we are more prepared than ever and excited about people returning to in-person shopping (fingers crossed). I’m ahead of schedule with my holiday ordering, so I’m feeling confident that, even though I expect to be crazy busy, we will be able to manage it with as little stress as possible, due to all the advance planning.

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5 retailers you love to follow who inspire you:

John Derian
Cutter Brooks
ABC Carpet and Home
Anthropologie
Maman

 

Wendy would love to thank Louise for her involvement in this blog post! To learn more about Louise and her beautiful shop, please visit the following:

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Louise McManus

Website | Facebook | Instagram |

To join Louise and other profitable and awesome shop owners, join the Retailer’s Inner Circle here.

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