Life Stories Small Business Edition

The role small businesses play in our society is often undervalued. In fact, the impact these businesses have on our economy is anything but small.

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Successful locally-owned businesses have a positive economic influence on communities and are the backbone of America. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are approximately 28 million small businesses in America, and they do quite a lot to fuel the proverbial “American Dream.” Those businesses account for nearly 55 percent of all U.S. sales and for almost 65 percent of all U.S. jobs.

However, being a successful small business owner isn’t easy. The opportunity to pursue your passion is exciting, but there are many challenges along the way – money and time management, hiring the right people, and marketing, just to name a few.

Drive is a very common characteristic among successful small business entrepreneurs because some challenges require a substantial amount of competitiveness, determination and motivation.

Life Storage has countless customers who are successful small business owners. They use storage for a number of items, from extra inventory and supplies to seasonal decorations. The following stories highlight three of those customers who own and operate very different businesses but all share that same inherent passion to succeed.

Hoffman Books

Ed and Tina Hoffman have been selling used, out-of-print, and rare books in Columbus, Ohio for 34 years. Read into it what you want, but it’s safe to say they love books.

Owning a book business wasn’t a dream their family always understood. “Tina and I have been able to work together doing something that we enjoy for the past 34 years, and we are still in business … so that’s our version of the American Dream, I guess,” Ed says. “When I told my dad back in 1982 that I was going to start a business and sell old books, he definitely thought I was dreaming!”

Ed and Tina were high school sweethearts and have been married for 43 years. They have a son and a daughter. Tina is a nurse by profession, and Ed was a high school English teacher.

“I gravitated toward books,” Ed says. “I have always been interested in the physical book, the object. Sounds kind of strange, I guess.”

It’s an enjoyable way to make a living,” Ed says. “Buying new collections all the time. It’s great fun. It’s like a treasure hunt, looking for stuff people haven’t seen. It’s a challenge to find the more unusual publications.”

Most booksellers would agree that, after the challenge of finding interesting and worthwhile inventory, a critical concern is safe, clean, and secure storage for that inventory. For the past 20 years, the Hoffmans have turned to Life Storage to fill that need. In those years, they have stored tens of thousands of books safely and successfully under the watchful eye of David Roach at the E. Henderson Road location in Columbus.

First, there was the “Paul North Collection:” 80,000 books and pamphlets from the estate of the Columbus bookseller that was offered at auction. The Hoffmans refer to this as “the buy of a lifetime,” and after 20 years, they occasionally run across a surprising treasure compliments of Mr. North – the most recent was an 1825 almanac that included the first printing of Clement Moore’s, “The Night Before Christmas.”

In 2003, the Hoffmans entered into a formal business partnership with Robert Emerson, a friend and colleague in the rare book business. It took three semi-trailers to transport Emerson’s inventory from Falls Village, Conn., to Columbus. Most of it went into storage.

Among Emerson’s collection was “The Maxwell Code, Laws of the Northwest Territory,” printed in Cincinnati in 1796. With fewer than 10 copies in existence, the extremely rare book sold for $105,000.

The Hoffman’s best find? ”The Wealth of Nations,” by Adam Smith, printed in 1776. It sold for $55,000. While reminiscing, Ed proudly recalls that he and his wife have sold about a half million books over the years. “It’s an enjoyable way to make a living,” Ed says. “Buying new collections all the time. It’s great fun. It’s like a treasure hunt, looking for stuff people haven’t seen. It’s a challenge to find the more unusual publications.”
The Hoffmans buy and sell quite a bit online.  They are members of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America, a trade organization of 500 members in the U.S.

At the peak, the Hoffmans occupied 12 storage units. They have since pared down considerably. “We have always known that our inventory would be safe and secure” at Life Storage, says Ed.

 

Using Self Storage as Office Space

 

A Recipe for Success

It’s “fare” to say restaurateur Brannon Florie is a workaholic. By his own admission, the native of Charleston, S.C., is “constantly working” to keep the soul of Southern food and hospitality alive.

I’m all about small business owners. I want to give back to the community,” he says emphatically. “I take care of the locals. It’s important to me to support local distributors, locally-owned businesses.”

“I’m always busy, man,” says Florie, owner of several restaurants in the Charleston area. “I have a lot of investors, I’m hands-on with everything. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I’m doing the business side. At night, I’m the chef.”

This schedule leaves little room for a personal life. But Florie takes it in stride. “I try to take Sundays off,” he adds with a robust chuckle.

Florie, who has been involved in food and restaurants “my whole life,” is continually trying to live out his dream. But that vigor and strong work ethic almost cost him a few years ago. He suffered a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 34.

“It wasn’t severe, but it was an eye-opener, man,” says Florie, who has two young girls and a third baby on the way with his wife, Renee. “It was stress-related. I had a lot going on. It made me look at my life and realize what is important, which is family.”

The heart attack didn’t stop Florie or change his dedication and passion for his businesses. It just made him delegate a little more and spend more time with his family.

Renee is a partner in the business and works as the general manager at Florie’s newest restaurant, Pier 41. They have an office inside the main building at the Life Storage facility on Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

A passionate proponent of the Lowcountry, which is the geographic and cultural region along South Carolina’s coast, Florie’s many different restaurant endeavors include The Granary, On Forty-One, The Americano, Florie’s Events, Floking Artisan Products, and now Pier 41, which opened in late August.
“I’ve been so busy trying to get Pier 41 open, it’s been crazy, man,” Florie says in his casual, idiomatic style.

Florie has never been a stranger to hard work. He earned his first managerial position at the age of 17 and then spent the next decade honing his business, management, and culinary skills across the U.S., working for many well-known companies, including Walt Disney World Resorts and Restaurants.

When he returned to Charleston, Florie’s reputation quickly spread throughout the city’s flourishing food and beverage community.

In all of his endeavors, Florie aims to honor the relationships he has built with local farmers, fisherman, brewers, and distillers. Even his plumber and electrician are personal friends and Mount Pleasant locals. His desire to give back to the community is exemplified by his involvement with local charities such as East Cooper Meals on Wheels, East Cooper Land Trust, and Lowcountry Land Trust. “I’m all about small business owners. I want to give back to the community,” he says emphatically. “I take care of the locals. It’s important to me to support local distributors, locally-owned businesses.”
Florie is not likely to rest on his laurels.

“I have some other things in the works,” he says. “Right now I’m concentrating on Pier 41 and spending more time with my family.”

The Purple Door

For Michelle Ferguson, customer service is the key to her success. The mother of four, who owns two small boutiques in Southeast Texas, says she “takes pride in providing our customers with quality clothing at affordable prices.”

Located in Nederland and Beaumont, the Purple Door is a women’s boutique that features contemporary clothing, including the latest trendy fashions. The stores opened in 2013.

Few successful small businesses are built alone, and Ferguson knew she was going to need help from someone with her same passion for the boutique. Lisa Edgerly, a friend of Ferguson’s for the past 10 years, is the general manager.

“We know that women have a lot of choices in where they choose to shop. Our goal is that when they leave The Purple Door, they feel beautiful and confident,” says Edgerly. “We want each of our customers to feel their experience shopping at the Purple Door is personal and they can expect the same great customer service and value every time.”

The retail business wasn’t always on the ladies’ radar. Ferguson, who earned her law degree at South Texas College of Law, ran a private practice in Beaumont for several years. Edgerly was a paralegal and office manager for her. One day, Ferguson decided on a new business venture, and The Purple Door was born.

As a business owner, Ferguson realizes the importance of offering a great product and backing it up with superior service. “We want every customer to have that small boutique experience. Give them that one-on-one customer service,” says Ferguson, who believes that “shop local” contributes to the success of small businesses.

We want every customer to have that small boutique experience. Give them that one-on-one customer service,” says Ferguson, who believes that “shop local” contributes to the success of small businesses.

Ferguson’s brainchild has been a hit right off the bat. Both Ferguson and Edgerly travel to Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles where they meet with suppliers and vendors to purchase “good products.”

“It’s a lot of fun and has been a great experience for both of us,” says Edgerly.

Ferguson uses Life Storage in Beaumont to store seasonable objects, like Christmas decorations and other holiday items, as well as racks of extra clothing and pieces of equipment they “don’t use all the time.”

“They (Life Storage) have been great to us,” says Edgerly. “We would recommend them to everyone.”

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