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Last Update: Thursday July 2, 2020

Key Idea: Transform Your Entire Neighborhood

Orange Tree Imports is on the historic Monroe Street with other specialty shops. The owners all work together to create a unique shopping experience.  More...

Key Question:

A: 

Spend time and money to improve your neighborhood.

Small business owners are doing much of the work being done to revitalize historic business districts in the U.S. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street programs have been working through small businesses since 1980 and is generating billions of dollars in physical improvements, thousands of net new businesses, and hundreds of thousands of net new jobs.

Q:
Why do Carol and Dean prefer to be on Monroe Street rather than in a new suburban mall?

A:
Carol and Dean Schroeder bought the building on Monroe Street in Madison, Wisconsin over twenty years ago because as Carol put it, Malls arent us. She goes on to say that she fell in love with the English style leaded glass front window of the old building and she is attracted to all things English.

Alicia Gehring is director of Wisconsin’s Main Street program, and she said, “It's a good place to do business because you can do things your way. You can be an independent business owner and you don't have to follow the management rules in shopping malls. Two, there's always a spirit of camaraderie in these kinds of business districts, so you can get involved more in the community. And more and more business owners, small-business owners particularly, really want to give back to the community, and it's a way to do that. And, third, it is a great place for small businesses that are unique to be unique and to sell that uniqueness.”

Carol and Dean may or may not make as much money in an historic business district as they could in a high-traffic mall. Rents in a mall are typically higher than rents in old buildings which means they would have to generate bigger sales to pay the bigger rents to realize the same percentage of profits. Also, Carol and Dean own the building personally, so their business, Orange Tree Imports, pays rent to them. This is a great asset-building strategy. If they still have a mortgage on the building, they benefit personally from tax deductions they can take for the interest they pay.

Also, the rent payment from Orange Tree is personal income on which they do not have to pay employment tax. If they simply rent in a mall, every monthly payment goes to the owner of the mall, which is basically just a cost of doing business. By owning the building, they are increasing their net worth with every single monthly payment.

Buying a building requires up front cash and it is more difficult to move if you decide the location is not right for you. A mall has a marketing staff whose job it is to get people to come shop. At a mall, your monthly rent is added to the pool of dollars from all the tenants and together the merchants can advertise and roll out promotions that attract customers. Bottom line: owning a building makes you very independent.

Note: There are some grants and tax deductions for investing in historic neighborhoods. Contact the Main Street Association that operates out of Washington, DC under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Think about it

Do you enjoy your business location? Do you own it? Could you work towards purchasing your own location?

Clip from: Orange Tree Imports with Carol Schroeder

Madison, Wisconsin:  Meet a guru of specialty retail, Carol "Orange" Schroeder (just above). She is the author of the book, Specialty Shop Retailing,  and she truly walks her talk. With her husband, Dean, they started their business, Orange Tree Imports, soon after graduating from college. That was 1975.

Today Orange is a master retailer and a quiet hero in her community. She was an early leader in the movement to revitalize the old downtown. Soon after buying the building on Monroe Street, Orange organized a neighborhood business association to do joint marketing-and-promotion to change the orientation of their old shopping district to be a vital area for specialty shops and restaurants. That worked miracles. Monroe Street now draws people from well beyond the neighborhood, even Wisconsin!

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Orange Tree Imports

Carol Schroeder, Founder

1721 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711
608-255-8211

Visit our web site: http://orangetreeimports.com

Office: 608-255-8211

Business Classification:
Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1975

Transform Your Entire Neighborhood

HATTIE: Why did you buy an old building? What were you thinking?

CAROL: Well, the old building is in an old neighborhood, and that to me is really valuable. It's a beautiful street to be on. And this building has a wonderful, leaded-glass bay window that was built by an Englishman back in the 1910s, and I fell in love with that. I like anything English, and it was just right for us, I think.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Orange Tree Imports is on historic old Monroe Street in Madison, part of Wisconsin's Main Street program, Alicia Gehring is director.

ALICIA GEHRING: It's a good place to do business because, one, you can do things your way. You can be an independent business owner, and you don't have to follow other people's rules that are sometimes in place in regular shopping malls and that sort of thing. Two, there's always a spirit of camaraderie in these kinds of business districts, so you can get involved more in the community. And more and more business owners, small-business owners particularly today, are really wanting to give back to the community, and it's a way to do that. And, three, it is a great place for small businesses that are unique to be unique and to sell that uniqueness.

CAROL: (Voiceover) Well, there wasn't a Merchants Association when we opened 20-some years ago. It was something I really felt a need for it -- to try and get people together, to cooperate, to do events together, to do advertising together. I think that being in an old neighborhood, it's such an important part of our cities to keep these neighborhoods alive. And we just aren't really shopping center people. This is where we belong.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Very early on Orange and Dean decided their lifestyle is more important than big bucks.

CAROL: (Voiceover) We've had many opportunities to expand, but we decided that it really made a difference for us to be here and to meet the customers. Also, we decided to have children instead of branches.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Their children have grown up in the store.

CAROL: (Voiceover) We've always traveled together as a family on buying trips, and when it's inventory time we're all here working. And so it is part of our lifestyle, definitely.

HATTIE: But . . . you can write your own schedule, be your own boss, surround yourself with products and items that you like. Don't you think that it's . . . bigger than a business? Do you know what I mean?

CAROL: Well, I can't imagine life any other way. It really is part of how we picture ourselves and how we define ourselves. But, I also realize that the store has a life outside of my life and Dean's life; I mean, it means a lot to different people. It means something special to my customers. It means something special to my staff. And I have to incorporate all those visions into what the business is. It's not just my image of what Orange Tree Imports should be.

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