Teri Ann’s in downtown Marietta thrives through and after the “big store” phenomenon!
If you’re old enough to remember the personalized customer service we got from the small stores – you might also remember wandering through the big stores searching for someone who might be able to help. Sure, we eventually found someone, but it took so long and they didn’t always know how to help. At the time it was a startling contrast.
We might call it something like “do it yourself shopping.” No more getting your feet measured and waiting for the salesperson to find the right size shoe. And “oh, do you have this in brown?” Or, “Can I get you a different size” when in a fitting room. No. You’re on your own sweetie. Hope you find it. Get dressed and just go back out there.
I certainly had forgotten about those customer service days when I passed by Teri Ann’s recently.
How had I never walked into their store before? Well on this day there was an outfit on a mannequin — well, I wanted to try it on. So I went inside, They didn’t have my size on the rack…so they undressed the mannequin. I actually could not figure out how to put it on, so the saleswoman kindly helped me figure it out. And, then the miracle. It fit.
That was the first time I ever found something I liked that fit within less than 10 minutes. I actually hate shopping.
So, when I interviewed Teri Ann, I wasn’t surprised when she explained how she and her sisters adapted to keep the business their parents started not only surviving, but thriving.
“We’ve always valued customer service.”
Teri Ann and her two sisters inherited the shop from their parents who opened in 1961, naming it after their oldest child. After their parents passed away in the early 1970s, the sisters kept the shop going.
“I believe we’ve evolved with the times, and that we need to continue evolving,” Teri Ann told me. She continued, “We’ve always valued customer service. We have a relationship with our customers.”
This described my experience completely. One of my first jobs as a teen was in retail, and it was cut throat. Other salespersons were always stealing my sales. So I asked if they were paid commission. This is not their business model. “No commission,” she told me. “We all work together. I want you to come back and to go home with something you love.”
“Independent retailers provide a service. It’s different than at the mall.” This was an insight I hadn’t thought about. If someone had asked me, I would have said all retailers sell goods – clothing, antiques, musical instruments, and so on. But I then had a rush of memories of knowing the owners of the shops and how they answered our questions back before the Internet. They educated us and helped us discover that what we needed existed. They helped us find things that fit, ordered items, allowed us to browse and not feel guilty when we walked out without buying anything.
Here is how Teri Ann’s helps people like me who hate shopping. “We shop for people,” she told me. “Huh?” I was confused. She explained that they get to know their customers and all they need is a phone call. Are you rushed for time? Hate shopping? Need something special. Call them and they’ll choose some items for you to try on when you arrive. Are you clothing dyslexic like me? You have no idea what style to choose? Or what looks good or goofy? The sisters will get you all fixed up. It’s true. I experienced it first, before I did the interview. It’s why I decided to do this feature.
They have customers who have moved out of the area. They regularly ship items to these loyal customers! Trunk shows, adapting a merchandise mix that customers want, and social media posts are other ways that they have evolved with the times.
But seriously, if you need a smile, just walk in. You will be greeted with sincere contagious smiles. It isn’t like the “hello, welcome to name the store” that some stores have trained their employees to spit out without making eye contact. You will be convinced that they like you, and I think that’s because they do.
“We’re happy to be independent retailers in beautiful downtown Marietta.” Teri Ann said that this was the only job she has ever had since she was 16, and she has never wanted any other job. The three sisters – Teri Ann Zide-Pfeffer, Shelly Medley, and Melissa Deskins – are ready to serve you.
When you drop in, tell them you read this article!
290 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio