The Curry Coastal Pilot

At the same time that Mory's, a Brookings fixture since 1973, is closing its doors and joining other shuttered businesses, a dozen or so new retail shops have opened or are about to.

In other words, things in the local business community are not as grim as some people might think.

Owning and opening a retail business these days is always a tricky endeavor, especially these days with the struggling economy and the ever-present allure of online shopping and big city box stores. Simply operating a store and urging people to "shop locally" is not enough.

The Curry Coastal Pilot's advertising representatives are on the streets and in the shops day in and day out, nurturing and guiding their clients. Here's what they've learned.

To increase the chances of success, business owners should follow some basic, proven guidelines to attract and keep customers.

andbull;Create a business plan: Don't simply open a store and expect customers to flock to it andndash; even if all your friends suggest you turn your hobby into a business. A well-thought out plan will help determine if there is a big enough market for your business.

andbull;Have adequate funding. Have, beg or borrow enough cash to see you through the initial phase of establishing your business (two to three years is the current rules). Many shops close in the first year simply because they lacked the funding to buy more merchandise or comply with customers' requests.

andbull;Create an inviting environment. Proper lighting, bright colors and a fresh coat of paint will get rid of the dark, damp, dreary feeling of many existing shops.

andbull;Have clear signage (inside and out), open aisles and displays. Customers hate to be confused about prices and where to find what they are looking for.

andbull;Change it up! Refresh static displays, move things around, add new products. Give customers a reason to come back.

And most important:

andbull;Be friendly andndash; always! Who wants to give their hard-earned cash to someone who appears to hate their job or rather be someplace else? Have hours convenient to customers, not yourself.

These guidelines alone don't guarantee success, but they can improve the odds.

If there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's that word-of-mouth in a small community can benefit or bury a business. No amount of advertising and fire sales can overcome a bad reputation. Business owners would be wise to do whatever it takes to keep their customers happy.