Cynthia A. Gompert
<b>Short bio: </b>
Hometown Pittsburgh, Pa.. Attended West Virginia University and the University of Maryland, bachelors degree in interior design. Married with two children. I have had many jobs in customer service, furniture sales, museum work specializing in cataloguing and the conservation of textiles. Because we moved so frequently, it was always a challenge to come up with home decorating schemes that were inexpensive and could be used in many different settings. I became enamoured with auctions and flea markets and the concept of the re-use of materials.
<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>
I had had a textile conservation business and a dried-wreath business which I was able to do no matter where we lived. I had always wanted to own a business where I could sell American folk-art, antiques and collectibles. I wanted to sell new products that complemented the antiques and collectibles for those who could not afford the real things. I also had friends and relatives that were very creative and I had envisioned a venue where their things could be sold.
Eventually the store evolved into an eclectic mix of goods that appealed to a wide audience from grandmothers to new mothers, to neighbours who were looking for a unique affordable gift and to casual lookers who derived enjoyment from seeing the displays and odd-ball things that we threw into the mix. It's a store within a core neighborhood that prides itself on being the place "where small town America still exists."
<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself rather than as an employee for someone else? </b>
I had always wanted to own a store. After approaching many friends about the possibility of going into the venture with me, I realized that it was my passion and that others didn't have the same interest as I did.
<b>What have you learned from being in business? </b>
I have learned that it takes a long time to make a profit. I have learned that my customers appreciate having a store within their neighborhood that has interesting and unique items for sale that can't be found many other places. The customers appreciate the fair prices for my products. They like to bring friends and visitors to see the store because it is unique.
<b>Share an anecdote of a challenging or humorous experience or biggest surprise learned from working your business: </b>
I am always surprised when a customer asks for a discount on a brand new product. I can't imagine that they would go to a chain or department store and say they think that something is a little expensive, so "would I be willing to discount it? " I also find that the general public doesn't appreciate how expensive it is to run a business, particularly a small independent one that can't take advantage of quantity discounts from suppliers.
<b>What have been the advantages and/or disadvantages of operating a business in Alexandria? </b>
I originally started in the mid-nineties on lower King Street in an upstairs location. It was very difficult to draw attention to my location because of signage restrictions in Old Town. When I started looking for a new space, a friend mentioned DelRay. I went to DelRay and immediately fell in love with it because it reminded me of the town where I was raised. I really like the small-town feel, the active business organization, and the support that we all have for each other.
<b>Key staff: </b>
I have a great support staff of local women who all work part-time.
<b>Description of services and/or products: </b>
Welcoming atmosphere, unusual and interesting products, stress-free shopping on "The Avenue."
<b>Professional affiliations/associations: <b>
Potomac West Business Association, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. DelRay representative.