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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Love People

It is not enough to love the products you sell. You must also have a profound love for people to build a successful specialty retail shop.

Key Question:


Find the good in people and fall in love with them.

Q: Why did Carol give this advice?

Working with both customers and employees is the primary task of a shopkeeper. If you prefer to select products and spend time with the bookkeeping, you should work for a large store where you can easily avoid people. A specialty shop succeeds because of the way people are treated. You must love people and treat them right. Carol says she feels as if she is inviting customers into her home. It is this warm, close contact that keeps customers coming back and keeps her employees satisfied.

Think about it

How do you show your good feelings for your customers and your employees?

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

Visit our web site:

Office: 608-255-8211

Business Classification:
Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1975

Love People

HATTIE: Do you think having a business is for everyone?

CAROL: Well, I don't think it's for everyone under every life circumstance. Certainly, many people have the ability to have a business and have the intelligence and the drive to do it, but I think that not everyone's personal situation is right for owning their own business. Depending on their financial responsibilities, how many other people are involved in their family, what their energy level is, it's not certainly right for everyone at every time.

I think it also is important that you like people. And you may have a passion for stamp collecting and want to own a store selling collectible stamps, but if you don't also have a passion for dealing with the public or with your employees, that could be very difficult.

HATTIE: So you think, in retailing, loving people is number one.

CAROL: I think so. I think that it's also, of course, a good idea to have a head for numbers and be able to make it work financially. But if you don't like being with people and inviting people into your store, as if you were inviting them into your home, then you probably shouldn't be in retail.

HATTIE: Are you thinking about things that you want to do with your life in the second half?

CAROL: Well, that's a challenging thought. I think that I try and live every day as if I don't necessarily have half my life left to go. So I am involved in a lot of activities in addition to the store and try to live every day to the fullest. And I'd like to have Orange Tree Imports keep being an important part of that part of my life, and I hope that Dean and I will have many years of running the store together and possibly have our son and daughter get involved in the future, if they'd like to do that, or possibly if they wanted to open a branch somewhere. But, otherwise, I think Orange Tree Imports will stay with one location, continue to grow in other ways by diversifying, possibly exploring the Internet, exploring mail order, new product lines, new ways of selling to our customers and hopefully, together with Monroe Street, bring in more customers to our area, which will not only help our fellow merchants but also add to our success.

HATTIE: And maybe have another 125 staff persons on your Orange Tree.

In the Studio

HATTIE: We get hundreds of emails a week from viewers. Mostly asking, for advice and sometimes to tell us that we are helping them. One viewer writes, `Thanks for having Laura McClendon, the list broker, explain how to build the best mailing list. Since taking her advice, my response has increased substantially.' Today Orange explained how she added to her own list. She asked herself the question: `Who already has the customer that I want?' Since she sells gourmet cooking supplies, she figured a great place to go was Bon Appetit magazine. She rented the list for one-time use. Everyone who responded to her mailing by using the coupon or returning the response card is now a permanent part of Orange Tree Imports' list. This technique produced great return on investment.

Dean and Carol Schroeder said that they love being shop-keepers and they love owning their own building in this historic business district in Madison. If you're like me, you get a special feeling when you shop on a street like Monroe, or on Newbury Street in Boston, or in the French Quarter in New Orleans. As a business owner you can join the movement that is helping turn hundreds of historic business districts into vibrant destinations that end up on everyone's list of places they want to visit. You don't necessarily have to be in retail either. The historic district in San Diego where I live, has ad agencies, systems integrators, architects and basically every type of business. There are many one-person companies occupying loft space. During an Event here called ART Walk, we were able to go inside the live-in studios of many artists. And, on the web at you can study about this powerful idea and research the possibilities of becoming involved yourself.

By the way, Carol's book, Specialty Retailing is terrific. You can find it on the store's website at Remember: Orange Schroeder is a team player. If you're tired, frustrated, frazzled, stop doing everything alone and start building a team. We'll see you next time.

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