Join Kim Leister as she shares a conversation with Brandy Deieso, friend and owner at The Little Apple in Manayunk, PA.
The Back Story
In 2013 Brandy made the big decision to buy a small retail shop in Manayunk, Pennsylvania. The shop had a great base of regulars, product that had customers coming back for more, and was a stable investment. However, Brandy really knew zero about the retail world. What Brandy did know was how to listen, and of course how to shop!
I was introduced to Brandy by the original creator and owner. When I first met Brandy she was eager, apprehensive, but most importantly determined. She loved her community, she recognized what they loved about the shop, and she set forth to make the shop her own.
Now, 9 years, a marriage, and 2 sweet little girls later, it was an absolute treat to talk shop. For me, I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years now. I’ve seen amazing businesses change hands and go under more than once, but for this transaction, I saw something amazing.
Manayunk is a fun town. Lots of great shops and restaurant. Not quite the city, but city enough. When you walk by The Little Apple, the first thing that grabs your attention is the windows. Always a showstopper (or walk-stopper). I’ve personally always loved this special little place and the realness of it. It is the epitome of small business.
Kim: “Brandy, what was your biggest concern when you were buying the business?”
Brandy: “Definitely the aesthetic. The Little Apple had a history that was very visual and I am very business. I wanted to keep the magic, but also think about maximizing space, really evaluate what was working, and what wasn’t. Even though we were known for beautiful product, I wanted to add utility. It was finding that balance.”
Kim: “So, you had product that was selling and now you wanted to up your game. What is your driving force behind choosing what you sell?”
Brandy: “It’s funny, I had people tell me I couldn’t buy just what I wanted (as I am a shopper) and I ignored it and stuck to my gut. I do NOT sell anything I don’t like. I don’t care if it’s a best seller, I have to be passionate about it. I believe in what I sell and if I don’t believe in it, it won’t sell. Of course, if I buy something and it sits on the shelf too long or the margin becomes too small, I revisit. My goal is to not put items on sale unless they are seasonal. If I have to put something on sale more than a couple times, I then change my direction. My personal best sellers are the items I buy over and over. For example, Capri Blue candles and Jellycat have my two top selling items. I expand within these brands but remain true to selling them."
Kim: “What is your biggest resource for finding new product?”
Brandy: “Instagram, and I know you are going to hate this, but Faire. However, I always used both platforms to find small brands, and now things have changed. Everyone is on Faire, so finding the small and special isn’t the same. I also have not been a show-goer. It seems like everyone goes to shows and we all end up buying the same things. However, now that things have changed, I am definitely reevaluating my strategy.”
Kim: “Since we are in the business of sales, I have to ask - what is your opinion of Sales Reps?”
Brandy: “Some add value and some don’t. There are those that respond to me on a Sunday, and those that are only trying to upsell me. I know my customers, and I expect a Rep to know me as a customer as well.”
Kim: “Let’s talk real obstacles because I know you have faced a lot.”
Brandy, “Well, there are always social issues and that’s a fine line. Philly had riots and those were really scary. My family lives above the shop and when there were threats of fires, that shook me. We had the flood. We still have businesses in town that aren’t even open yet. And then there was/is Covid. Fortunately for me, I just redid our website and that was a huge blessing.
However, I was already a mom to a toddler and had a newborn as well. Honestly, it was a terrifying time. I was alone, didn’t see family, was fully transferring a business online, implementing curbside pickup, and just financially struggling on top of it all. Luckily grants helped me survive, and I didn’t have a second mortgage since we lived upstairs and that was a huge help. Our community supported us and that’s what truly got us through. After all of that, 2021 was the busiest year ever and we continue to grow.”
Kim: “I always say there is no rhyme or reason to the industry, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this?”
Brandy: “It could be sunny and slow or rainy and busy. I have learned to not anticipate anything. I can’t stress over the ups and downs even though it’s hard not knowing what your salary is. The one thing I can count on is Small Business Saturday. It is our best day of the year and I personally love to make it extra special for my customers.”
Kim: “Is there a secret to why you are successful?”
Brandy, “Funny, I was thinking about it this morning. I love coming to work. My husband goes to work just to go to work. My job is my hobby and I love it. It makes me tear up to think about it. It was terrifying to start, but I just love it. I get excited and feel rewarded when people come in and like what I have picked. I also love my town. It’s filled with a lot of young people that have given it a rebirth. This is my town and I never want to leave. I love my coffee shop, the people, the other shops. From the regulars to the tourists that visit, we just have cool customers.”
After all these years in being in business, watching The Little Apple grow and succeed has truly warmed my heart. I love my job and while I am not a Rep on the road anymore, it is ALWAYS our customers that make what we do worthwhile. When we can see someone become successful with the products we are selling them it makes it a really fun journey. Many thanks to Brandy for inviting us along for the ride.