Garner Cleveland Record

Garner looking at how to be a better resource to Mom & Pop businesses

Marisa Hart of Garner, focuses on her breathing as she listens to yoga instructor Kara Crooks (left).
Marisa Hart of Garner, focuses on her breathing as she listens to yoga instructor Kara Crooks (left).

When Kara Crooks decided she wanted to open a small business in Garner, she wasn’t aware of the different permits the town required in order to get her business started.

Crooks, the owner of Zin Yoga & Wine, designed her business to have two parts to it. The business is mainly a yoga studio, but it also sells wine. The studio also has wine tasting and other events on certain days.

But to have a business with a unique concept like hers, she had to get an alcohol permit signed by the town as well as the police department, she said.

So the process of opening her business off Aversboro Road took longer than expected.

“Had I known I had to get a signed permit, it could have saved me some time,” Crooks said.

Opening a small business can have it’s challenges for entrepreneurs. And during the economic recession, small businesses especially took a big hit.

Now that the economy is picking back up, the town’s economic development department is looking for ways it can better partner with small businesses and promote entrepreneurship.

“What we’re trying to do is outline a basic comprehensive approach to a solid economic development foundation,” Stallings said. “You’ll see programming focused on entrepreneurship and small business development. Retail recruitment and expansion, as well as retention. The same for commercial and industrial.”

Much of Garner’s economic foundation is made up of small businesses. Ever since the ConAgra explosion in 2009, there hasn’t been a large employer in Garner.

Stallings said the town will soon be rolling out a business retention and expansion program to help the small businesses here.

“A job that we retain is just as good as a job that we recruit,” Stallings said. “And more importantly it is less expensive to do so. So if we’re not doing well keeping the business here happy and meeting their needs, then chances are if we recruit more businesses, we won’t be able to meet their needs and keep them happy.”

“Juggling all of those things”

Dena McDonald, owner of Alossi Renewal Spa also on Fidelity Court, said she’d welcome help from the town. Now in her sixth year in business, she said she leans a lot on the help of the Garner Chamber of Commerce.

“For me, being this small, you wear 15 different hats,” McDonald said. “I basically do everything from the payroll to the marketing, community relations. But also services for clients at the spa. And it’s really difficult to juggle all of those things.”

She has five employees who work at her spa.

Garner has seen a number of new restaurants and retail stores make their way to White Oak in recent months, from Starbucks, to Five Guys and a few more on the way.

“I want growth (in Garner), but as I see big chains coming in, you hope that that is not what it all goes toward,” McDonald said. “You hope that your mom and pop businesses can still thrive, so they don’t drown.”

That’s something Stallings said the town is trying to make sure doesn’t happen.

Good strong businesses are going to employ more people and contribute to the quality of life here, he said.

“I think the Chamber of Commerce does a great job working with local businesses here,” Stallings said, “We need to be a part of that success. And we need to get out there and speak with them. So that the businesses know we are there as a resource.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @GarnerCleveland