Small businesses in downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs are offering a personal touch and a more laid-back atmosphere to lure shoppers Saturday.
All three areas boast a different feel on Small Business Saturday as an alternative to the all-out shopping blitz that Black Friday, and now Thursday afternoon and evening have become. Don’t expect doorbuster specials used by big-box retailers to draw in customers in those smaller shopping areas on Black Friday; instead, look for organic, locally sourced merchandise with a big dose of personal service.
Bella Terra Creations, Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Co., The Men’s Xchange and Wild Goose Meeting House all will participate in Small Business Saturday, an 8-year-old nationwide event to encourage consumers to shop at small local stores rather than chain and big-box stores. The U.S. Small Business Administration and Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center sponsored a tour Wednesday of all four businesses. All but Wild Goose either opened or moved to higher-profile locations over the past year.
Gustavo Muniz and Erica Odom opened Bela Terra in May at 347 Manitou Ave. to sell organic Honduran coffee, nutritional supplements and water purification systems in a building that formerly housed a wood-carving business. Muniz said he rebuilt the space in less than a month.
He immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil in 2001 as a personal trainer but quickly shifted to construction in Florida to support himself, later moved to the Atlanta area to start a family and ended up in Manitou Springs while on vacation. He and Odom decided they wanted to live and start their business there, specializing in products they use daily.
Bob Lantzy bought Mountain Man Nut & Fruit four years ago from Theresa Ramirez, who still works for the business, and moved in May to a more visible site in 2514 W. Colorado Ave. in Old Colorado City. Lantzy previously was a project manager for Aspect Software Inc.
“I had no experience in retail, but I learned quickly and got a lot of help from the previous owner,” Lantzy said. “My wife formerly worked for the chamber of commerce and received a call asking whether she knew anyone interested in buying this business. She told me it could be a good opportunity, and I looked into it, got a good deal on buying it and we have done very well.”
James Proby opened The Men’s Xchange in July 2017 as a social enterprise that sells donated business and dress clothing for $40 or less and uses its profits to provide free clothing to clients from eight social service agencies so they can more easily find work. He moved the business in September from near the Patty Jewett Golf Course to a space with more customer traffic at 409 N. Tejon St.
“There are resources for women in most cities to dress well, but not for men,” said Proby, who previously worked in business development at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. “Our goal is to help men be better men by dressing better. We do a sizing and wardrobe color analysis for every client to help achieve that goal.”
Russ Ware and Yemi Mobalade opened Wild Goose Meeting House five years ago at 401 N. Tejon St., in the same block as The Men’s Xchange, as a place for “meaningful community building.” The café is celebrating its fifth anniversary during the entire weekend.
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