From the shops and stores located in the Historic Downtown District in Herndon to those in the nearby shopping centers, Herndon offers opportunities for both big national chains and small independent retailers.
Yet, how do the Little Boxes compete with the mega-retailers, what's it like to own and operate a small local store, and what do privately held businesses want the public and local governments to know?
The Connection reached out to four locally owned small businesses in Herndon, their owners and a president of the board. Businesses included the nonprofit organization, The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc. located at 845 Station Street, Herndon; Great Harvest Company, Herndon Bakery at 785 Station Street, Herndon owned by Ken Marter; Rejuvenations Massage Therapy, 150 Elden St, Suite 150, Herndon owned by Rick Morgan, LMT, NCBTMB Provider; and The Music Loft, LLC, owned by Laura Readyoff.
The small business owners and the president of the board answered following six questions:
Why did you decide to open your business in this location?
What has been your most difficult or challenging struggle in owning this small business and how did you overcome it?
What do you want people to know about you as a person and/or about your small business?
Give one word or sentence to describe operating your business.
What can local government do to help your business thrive?
Is there anything else you would like included?
Ken Marter, co-owner of Great Harvest Company, Herndon Bakery at 785 Station Street, Herndon:"I was actually talking with Great Harvest about opening up a store in D.C, but when the opportunity came about to buy the Great Harvest Companies here in Herndon, Ashburn and Vienna it made much more sense since we had moved to Herndon back in 2012. I took over Aug. 1, 2016.
The most difficult challenge is finding the right people to come and work at the bakery. We are not a large chain that can pay higher salaries; we need to find those who really want to work for a small business even if the pay may be a little less than they could make at a large chain operation."
"People should know that I love what I do and that while we have to make a profit, we give back to the community in many ways by supporting the local schools, races, charity auctions, fundraising events and many many other not-for-profit organizations. Owning a small business has many challenges that you must overcome, long hours and not seeing friends and family as much as you would like.
"Local government can plan for smart growth. They must make sure that the infrastructure is in place so that people can access our businesses without too much difficulty, and remember that if it is too difficult to find parking or traffic is too jammed, the small businesses will lose out to the bigger stores that have large surface or garage parking."
Laura Readyoff, owner of The Music Loft, LLC at 1141 Elden Street # 212, Herndon: “I live in Greater Herndon, and I had previous music students who would be happy to make the small commute to my current location near the downtown area. I love Herndon.
“The location and signage for The Music Loft are hidden from Elden Street, the main thoroughfare through the town. To combat the lack of visibility and the low number of walk-ins, our teachers got involved in bringing programming to the residents and children of the community.
“I genuinely care about music education for all children. My husband and my four children have always been supportive of the business even when times were tough. They stood by me and lent encouragement. I can describe owning my business in one word: joyous.
"I would like to see local governments continue to support all areas of the arts including arts education. I would love to have the opportunity to put signage for The Music Loft, LLC on Elden Street, so people know where the business is located. For as much as small businesses bring to the community, I think governments should consider tax breaks or incentives to help small business thrive.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our community. Small businesses are invested in the community; they believe in the community, and give back generously to the community."
Rick Morgan, LMT, NCBTMB Provider, Owner of Rejuvenations Massage Therapy, 150 Elden St, Suite 150, Herndon: "We moved our clinic here in 2008 when we consolidated with another massage practice on Herndon Parkway called For Health and Balance. We then grew and needed more space. In 2011, we moved to our present location at Elden Plaza. It is a great location with easy access off the Fairfax County Parkway and Elden Street. Finding highly skilled massage therapists (is a challenge). Herndon used to have a great massage school, but it closed during the recession along with most of the other massage schools in the area. This has made finding quality therapists more challenging. We often have to recruit from people moving into the area. We also started an intensive work-study program to help new therapists gain the more advanced knowledge and skills needed here.
"I’m a big believer in learning and developing through life, so every year I try to learn a new skill or hobby. This year I’ve taken up painting watercolors specifically.
“While our immediate goal is to help you get out of pain and to reduce your stress, our end goal is to help people be their best selves. We are all better parents, friends, partners, bosses, workers, athletes, etc. when we are pain and stress-free." [Owning a small business is] fulfilling. It’s awesome to see people arriving in one state and leave feeling better.”
Asked what local government can do to help small businesses thrive, Morgan said, "As little as possible! Haha. All kidding aside, we need to manage the growth and congestion that comes with it. Small service businesses like us rely on people being able to get here easily from neighboring towns, and if the growth from the metro rail expansion adds time and stress for people to come into or through Herndon, businesses like ours will suffer. We love being in Herndon. Herndon is a very open and accepting town to mom and pop/ independently owned businesses. In this day of Box Store and franchise development, I hope your readers recognize and support Herndon’s vision and commitment of small businesses."
Gene Wiley, President of the Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc., at 845 Station Street, Herndon: "We are centrally located in Herndon’s historic district, which is very convenient for our customers. Also, many customers use the bus lines servicing the area. We enjoy being located in one of Herndon’s oldest downtown buildings. Expanding and enhancing the service we provide our customers has been the biggest challenge. We accomplished this by staying open six days a week, 9-5, and two nights (Monday and Thursday) until 8. We also trained staff to work more efficiently. In addition, we began renovating the interior to make shopping and working at The Closet more pleasant for our customers, staff, and volunteers.
"The Closet staff and volunteers place the highest priority on providing great value and quality service to our customers.
We are a non-profit organization, and we rely on receiving good quality donations from our donors, which we then sell at affordable prices. All our profits, less expenses, are returned to the community through distributions to local non-profit organizations and high school scholarships. We also distribute free of charge, clothing and essential household items to persons referred to us by local social service agencies and to needy people in western Virginia. The Closet is Herndon’s thrift store that gives back to the community! We need government officials to continue to understand our situation when we seek approvals and authorizations. We appreciate all the consideration we have received to date.
“The Closet enjoys being one of Herndon’s oldest anchor businesses in the downtown area. We started our store in 1974, and we get better and better, year after year."