In his October 2008 column, Rob Shearer noted that "it’s places like Installation Floral that give us CliffDwellers one less reason to cross the river." Unfortunately, neighborhood resident Umi Brochstein has closed her storefront on Davis, and moved into an office space on Lemmon Avenue.
I noticed the post on her blog announcing the move, and emailed Brochstein to ask her if the move had anything to do with Oak Cliff. She responded that it had "everything to do with Oak Cliff … having our storefront in Oak Cliff was not a viable location to grow our business. Although we love the area and still live in Oak Cliff, the local demand for our product simply was not there."
Part of the problem was the economic downturn that began last fall, she says, but Brochstein also notes that she lost wedding clients because of her location south of the Trinity. Read more after the jump:
"Several times a client would make appointments and then later call and cancel, citing that she had looked up our address online and was not comfortable going to the Oak Cliff area," Brochstein says. "We shudder to think how many people simply did not call after seeing our location on the map. At professional events, I had planners tell me repeatedly that although they loved my work, they simply would lose credibility if they brought their North Dallas clientele down the Davis corridor."
Parking was an issue at the Davis storefront as well, she says, since the shop was "located between a very busy hair salon and a dog groomer. We had to constantly fight for customer parking, and to maintain access to our loading/unloading area in the back."
As far as the storefront attracting neighborhood shoppers, Brochstein says people loved visiting the shop on the weekends, but "the downturn in the retail industry at the beginning of last fall kept many people from making purchases that were crucial to our business growth." That’s not a problem specific to Oak Cliff, she points out — "Some of the shop owners I know in the ritziest parts of Dallas are seriously struggling right now."
So between the location issues and retail downturn, Brochstein decided to establish a presence north of our neighborhood (though her workspace is still on Hampton), and convert her business model to special event design only. She now shares office space with other special event professionals, which keeps her from having to pay for the more expensive overhead in retail zones, she says.
It’s safe to say that Brochstein would have closed her storefront regardless, since the retail overhead was sapping more money than it was bringing in. But intentionally moving into office space outside of Oak Cliff — a neighborhood she lives in and loves — was just as much a part of her business decision, if not more so.
I’ve heard other Bishop Arts shop owners complain that they’re not attracting the amount of business they would like, and it’s sometimes easy to shrug that off with the reasoning that if their business warrants visiting, people — whether neighborhood residents or people outside of our neighborhood — will make the trip, and the business will stay open; and if it doesn’t warrant visiting, the business eventually will close. Brochstein’s anecdotal experiences seem to suggest otherwise.
Losing a mom-and-pop establishment is always sad, especially something as neighborhood-oriented as a flower shop. But perhaps even more troubling are the implications Brochstein’s experience might have for other entrepreneurs wanting to make a go of it in Bishop Arts or elsewhere in Oak Cliff.