Small Businesses Big on Trends
By DREW PARKER
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — With nearly two decades of business ownership under her belt in St. Clairsville, Melanie Bromelow has established her downtown store as a hub for fashionable accessories and furnishings.
Bromelow’s shop, Mel’s Imagination, has offered all things fashion and home decor, ranging from jewelry to perfume and handbags at the 171 Main St. building for 18 years.
Through the years, she made several buying trips to various trade shows in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to bring the newest trends to Belmont County, where she greets customers each day with her two canine companions.
Bromelow said in addition to free services such as gift wrapping, small, local businesses are the first sellers of upcoming trends.
“It takes so long for major retailers like Wal-Mart to get a product in so we receive them right away. For example we had flat wallets probably three years before major retailers did. Infinity scarves are another example,” she said.
“We’re sort of the guinea pigs to see if it’s going to be a big seller, which works to our benefit because we get these products a year to three years before bigger stores.”
Bromelow noted she saw the Himalayan salt lamps, now massively trendy at malls and online boutiques, at trade shows over five years ago, receiving an upper hand on major markets. She added the most important feature of small business is genuine friendship and a sense of community.
“We’re also able to demonstrate how a product works or how to wear something,” Bromelow said.
“We offer a one-on-one experience. Everyone likes being able to come in and just talk to someone. Customers come to think of us as friends and we feel the same as business owners. Sometimes people will come in and tell me they’ve had a bad day and just needed a ‘Mel fix.'”