Annemarie Schneider is not averse to risk. August 1st, 2011 she opened Chic and Sweet
, a women's clothing boutique in North Buffalo, betting on the emerging commercial vitality of Hertel Avenue. So far so good.
The store's sales have grown steadily and Schneider is now also offering a selection of clothes and accessories online. Using Facebook and other social media sites, she has generated sales from all over the country. She targets women looking for clothing with classic design elements that are trendy at the same time. Her clients range in age from 25-75.
Schneider has expert advice on marketing to this customer base. Her business partner - and husband - Zack Schneider, is also co-owner of 15 Fingers LLC
, a marketing agency that specializes in catalyzing audience engagement with online and traditional marketing tools.
And as if all of this wasn't already exhausting, the couple had their first child, August Peter seven months ago. Fortunately, they have a large extended family that is only too happy to assist with child care. And Augie regularly accompanies his mother to the store, much to the delight of shoppers.
Schneider and her husband were eager to start a retail business on Hertel but first patiently conducted research. Initially they considered opening a lingerie boutique. But when the economy failed to rebound as predicted and consumers pulled back on purchasing luxury items, they decided instead to pursue their current product line.
Retail can be very challenging under any circumstance because of the cost of inventory. Schneider's strategy has served her well since launching her business. She views much of her clothing and accessories as "transitional" in that they can be sold and worn during more than one season. In addition, she keeps her order quantities low, buying only one or two garments in each size. This has an added benefit, according to Schneider, because her clients know they are buying something unique. "We pride ourselves on giving our customers an edge on fashion. They won't see themselves coming and going when they shop at Chic and Sweet."
Schneider is not new to entrepreneurship and the demanding schedule needed to make a retail venture successful. She has always been "obsessed" with fashion design and, after high school, created her own line of jewelry which she sold at home parties. She also worked in retail while going to school and gained valuable skills in business management and sales.
It was during this time that Schneider also attended Canisius College and earned a dual degree in English and Communications which led her to a job at Buffalo Spree Publishing before pursuing her current career in teaching. This fall, she started her fourth year as a Reading Specialist in the Lancaster School District. Her hectic schedule still allows her to closely manage Chic and Sweet and their four part-time employees. Her business is clearly a passion and its success is a priority.
Schneider is very excited by the recent commercial growth on Hertel. The opening of Spot Coffee and Globe Market represents significant investment and has increased foot traffic. New restaurants such as Mes Que and The Village Beer Merchant are also indications of other entrepreneurs' confidence in the future of Hertel Avenue.
While there are key geographic and demographic differences, Hertel is often compared to the Elmwood Avenue strip. Hertel may be approaching a critical mass of shopping venues and restaurants, but Schneider feels that a united marketing effort, similar to that of the Elmwood Village Association, is needed if the street is to draw a comparable volume of traffic.
To that end, she has been meeting routinely with other store owners to discuss ways to collectively promote Hertel from Parker to Delaware. For example, more year-round events, such as the Hertel Holiday Walk in December or Shop Rock and Stroll Friday nights during the summer, could bring many new shoppers to the area.
If their venture continues to thrive, Schneider and her husband may consider opening another business. "We really love the city and want it to be vibrant. We are always thinking bigger and better." Hopefully, they'll take another chance on Hertel.
Chic and Sweet is located at 1453 Hertel Avenue and is open Tuesday through Friday from Noon - 7 PM, Saturday from 11 AM - 5 PM and Sunday from Noon - 5 PM. The store is closed on Monday. For more information visit Chic and Sweet or call (716) 393-2442. You can follow Chic and Sweet on Facebook to see what's in-store and what's happening on Hertel Avenue.