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Downtown businesses get boost from consultant's advice

Date: 3/15/2011

March 16, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — George Kedzierski listened intently as Christine Moynihan, owner of the Walpole, Massachusetts, based consulting firm Retail Visioning, explained an approach she thought would help his 42-year-old jewelry store reach a broader audience.

"Do you have a Web site?" Moynihan asked Kedzierski, who responded he didn't. "Maybe we could set up a one-page Web site for your business — nothing fancy — just like a brochure."

Dipping a toe into technology was just one of the suggestions Moynihan made to Kedzierski and his wife, Bernice, owners of George's Jewelry at 67 Elm St., during her two-hour visit at the store.

Other suggestions involved modifying the store's showroom, narrowing product lines and capitalizing on George's wealth of experience as a jeweler.

"You need to position this as a store with expertise ... 'Come work with the real jeweler and he's right here in Westfield,'" Moynihan said as an example of a marketing approach.

She talked about the difference between George's Jewelry and the much-hyped Jared jewelry stores, most of which are located in big shopping malls.

"Who is Jared anyway? Who has ever met Jared?" Moynihan said. "And who's the expert at Jared's that can help a young couple buy their wedding set?"

Moynihan's stop at George's Jewelry last Thursday morning was part of two-day whirlwind visit that had her ferreting out the unique properties of eight micro-businesses in the downtown area in preparation to give the owners recommendations on how they could position themselves to succeed along with the city's revitalization projects.

The consultations, and a well-attended retail best practices workshop led by Moynihan in late February, were funded through a Community Development Block Grant secured by the Westfield Business Improvement District (BID).

BID Executive Director Lisa McMahon said 41 businesses attended the workshop — "we were hoping for 20" — and 15 of those attendees applied for grant monies and to have Moynihan work with their businesses one-on-one. Grant awardees were selected on a first-come, first-served basis from the pool of applicants who met the criteria.

"They had to be a micro-business, that meant five or less employees, and had to be in a designated area," McMahon explained. "We were looking at [businesses] on Elm between Court and Franklin [streets] and School Street and Main Street."

Along with George's Jewelers, Performance Music at 126 Elm St., Westfield Yarn & Thread at 22 School St., Optimum Health therapeutic Massage, LLC at 120 Elm St., A Cut Above the Rest at 37 Elm St., My Favorite Place at 48 Elm St., The Hairport at 148 Elm St. and The Gaslight Gallery at 24 Elm St. were selected to receive revitalization grants of up to $2,000 and consultations with Moynihan.

The monies, McMahon said, would be used for business modifications and store improvements.

McMahon said she first learned about Moynihan's retail business consulting service — and that she had helped "hundreds and hundreds of businesses" in the New England area when she attended a training seminar pub on by the Department of Housing and Community Development in Newburyport.

"She was a presenter, working very closely with the city of Lowell," McMahon said. "When I heard her speak ... I knew she was a good fit [for our needs]."

As part of her research into Moynihan's work, McMahon said she traveled to Lowell to see firsthand some of the businesses she had worked with.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, this is exactly what we need in Westfield," McMahon said, adding that she had been working to support the downtown business community with marketing and outreach for the past three years. Moynihan, she said, has the ability to "give [a business] something to sink their teeth into, to go in and do something concrete."

Kedzierski said he thought Moynihan's visit and initial suggestions were "excellent," especially those involving making the store's showroom more manageable for he and his wife.

Bernice, who called the business is "our life" and the couple's "home away from home," was excited by the aspect of changing the look of the store.

"When she was talking about [using grant] to buy stock or remodeling, I think remodeling is best," Bernice said. "The store needs a facelift."

McMahon said Moynihan would be back in Westfield in a month with a detailed plan of suggestions for George's Jewelry and the seven other businesses she'd visited. The business will then work with the city, where necessary, to use their grants to upgrade their retail presences downtown.

"She thinks outside the box, but she listens," McMahon said. "I can't wait for her to come back it's amazing to learn from her experience."

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