Weekly Feature

2016-12-01 / Business

Women-owned businesses prove to be heart of Lancaster’s village

by AMY ROBB Editor

Crystal Newman, left, and Sherri Sikora chat about starting their own businesses in the center of Lancaster Village. 
Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Crystal Newman, left, and Sherri Sikora chat about starting their own businesses in the center of Lancaster Village. Photo by Chuck SkipperPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com For years, there has been a resurgence of local businesses in Lancaster, particularly in the village.

West Main Street and Central Avenue is the nexus of 1950s charm, with many more updates in the works for a flourishing, walkable village center.

For the business owners along these two streets, the timing has never been better. What’s more, the majority of these businesses are women owned.

The first was Bloomsbury Toy Shoppe, which opened roughly seven years ago, followed by Mimi’s Central Perk Café, which will be open five years in August.

“So many people said that everyone who rented this spot was only there for six months and then they moved on, and they said, ‘You’ve been here the longest.’ They can’t get over it,” said Sherri Sikora, owner of Mimi’s.

“I’ve always wanted to do this. I love cooking, my husband loves cooking; as soon as I retired, that was it. We saw this. My daughter called me up from next door, Bloomsbury, and said, ‘Mom, there’s a building next to me for rent; you have to look at it.’”

Sikora’s daughter passed the Bloomsbury torch to another female entrepreneur, Crystal Newman, who has been running the shop since March.

“For me, it was a total impulse. I went to school for business, and then we moved to Lancaster because we have a young son and we wanted a better school district. I really wanted to get involved in the community and get to know people,” added Newman.

Other village businesses include Furry Friends Holistic Pet Spa, which has been around for four years, moving from a Broadway location to West Main Street; Dark Forest Chocolate Makers, which has been serving delicious confections for more than a year; and Purely Pets and Music Academy being the most recent, with opening months of April and September, respectively.

In addition to Bloomsbury and Mimi’s, Furry Friends is run by a mother-daughter team, with Dawn Pearce at the helm and daughters Hannah Goldsmith and Sarah Dobbins making the grooming services a family affair.

“We’re obsessed with animals, all of us, and we’re super close as a family. My sister worked at PetSmart for a year, a few years, and she was working for the county, didn’t really like her job, and we all just kind of wanted to do something together,” said Goldsmith.

For some, the transition to business ownership was relatively smooth, while for others there were hurdles along the way that made these women smarter and wiser when it comes to dealing with other business owners, customers, municipalities and others in their trade.

For JoAnne Sundell, owner of Dark Forest, difficulties popped up that were out of her control, but she made it work.

“Two large cacao grinders ordered from India were lost in the port of New York for a couple of weeks — just before Easter, a big chocolate holiday,” said Sundell.

The right equipment and passion for what she does shows in the product as well as an appreciation from customers.

“So many customers that have severe food allergies have expressed such gratitude for our nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free chocolate. It really makes us feel good. Food allergies are a serious problem for folks, especially children,” added Sundell.

Despite any sort of setbacks, owners always made sure to switch things up if need be or work outside the hours of store operation to fix ongoing problems.

For Kaitlyn Russ, owner of Purely Pets, experiencing a career that wasn’t the right fit helped her realize what would fulfill her career goals and in turn help pet lovers in the right way.

“When I started going to college I wanted to be a vet. Doing all my internships I realized it’s not exactly what I wanted to do, that there wasn’t enough involvement with the animals’ overall health,” said Russ.

Holistic food was another way to keep animals healthy without being too invasive or clinical.

Other than a little overlap with pet stores, the small businesses complement each other, providing a variety of services to the community within beautiful storefronts.

“I think because we’re a small village, we all have a unique business so we’re not really in direct competition with each other. That makes it really easy to support each other … offer an ear or advice,” said Newman.

Moving forward, these women hope to encourage others while supporting what is there and helping it grow.

“I feel a Lancaster women’s business owner group would be an excellent organization to share ideas and offer support to one another. Support from family and community is one of the key ingredients and elements to success,” added Jenna Abati, owner of Music Academy.

In the meantime, programs such as the Small Business Administration’s SCORE, which provides mentors to new business owners, and Woman Owned Business Enterprise certification will help companies grow and use every resource available to them. There is also New York State Women, a group aiming to help women grow professionally, politically and personally.

Addresses for businesses mentioned are as follows: Mimi’s Central Perk Café, 24 Central Ave.; Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe, 1 W. Main St.; Purely Pets, 5 W. Main St.; Furry Friends Holistic Pet Spa, 11 W. Main St.; Dark Forest Chocolate Makers, 11 W. Main St.; and Music Academy, 11 W. Main St., Suite 200.

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