Content May Draw Them In, Community Is Why They Come Back

dice and chipsHe wanted to stay home more. For his family and his health. After decades of driving cross-country, he opened a gift store in the heart of town.

He carefully chose inventory for his on-site location, and wisely began to develop working agreements for delivery options at the same time, so he could also sell product online.

An initial rush of curious neighbors visited his store the first few weeks, though foot traffic became quite slow – almost to a dead stop.

He went through a new small business owner checklist: advertising, join the Chamber, do a  direct mailing. Traffic stayed steady at one or two walk-ins a day.

One day, a friend was visiting the doctor a few doors down (nothing too serious), and asked if his 11-year old son could stay at the store for a short time.  Maybe even do some work sweeping up or moving boxes. With no other people coming into the store, the gift shop owner welcomed the company.

They quickly struck up a friendship, having similarly curious natures and each with a climate of dry humor. The owner had just received a free table top game to test out and asked the kid if he wanted to play. They had a good time in the 90-minutes they were together.

A few days later, the boy returned with a different game. This continued once or twice each week. On the occasions a customer would walk in to look around, table top games became a topic of discussion. At times, some customers would ask if they could play along.

Now, if you walk into the store – there are two large book cases on either side of the door leading to the store room. On the left, new games for sale. On the right, used games for play – right there in the store. Two tables sit by the shelving, with at least one table always having a game set-up and ready to play. Water and sodas are compliments of the house.

Sales are going well. People often leave with a gift or knickknack. They often come in to play a game and be with new friends.

The sign outside says Gifts. The prize inside says games. And community.

Are you finding ways to build community at your store or office?  Whose Turn?

Photo on Flickr by Mon Labiaga Ferrer

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