Business owners discuss assets, worries

The mission from last week’s Oxford Town Meeting was understood ? to get all of the businesses to communicate.
Madonna Van Fossen explained at the beginning of the meeting one of the reasons for the meeting was for everyone to get to know each other to open the lines of communication.
Van Fossen, executive director of Oxford Downtown Development Authority, met with all businesses and discussed what assets the owners thought Oxford had and what worries kept them up at night. She brought them to the meeting to give everyone a chance to build and come up with solutions.
The top five assets are a sense of heritage, the downtown area, natural features, the sense of community and M-24.
For many businesses, Oxford’s overall charm, history and collection of diverse shops made them excited to be here and bring people here.
‘Oxford has so many things to make it a quaint little town,? said VanFossen. ‘It’s our duty to increase the foot traffic and let people in surrounding communities know what Oxford has to offer.?
‘If we start talking the same talk and walking the same walk, we can help to promote Oxford,? said VanFossen.
Another perk to Oxford is the town’s location on M-24 giving it high visibility to travelers going to I-75 or I-69.
The new traffic light being added at M-24 and Broadway in June, will be a bonus for businesses when it slows down traffice and drivers have more time to see what opportunities are in Oxford.
Business owners mentioned other assets for them include the fact that the Chamber of Commerce, Village of Oxford and the DDA are now on the same page and working togther while the parking lots are constantly being improved.
Having employees and business owners now able to park in the lot east of Mill St. so customers have easy access to businesses was another benefit discussed. Everyone agreed customers are more likely to shop when the closer parking spaces aren’t filled.
The Oxford police and fire departments, community events and school systems were another bonus for businesses.
The five things that keep business owners awake at night are paying the bills, foot traffic, parking, businesses closing and the expense of advertising.
Many worry about paying for bills given the current economic situation.
‘We cannot dwell on our economic situation as a crutch,? said Chuck Schneider, DDA member. ‘Everyone can say, ‘I can sit here and cry about it or I suck it up and I can put my thinking cap on to generate business for my company.??
He added things aren’t going to get better right away and to keep doing whatever businesses are doing and do more of it.
Sue Kinch, of Fresh Eyes, added it was time for business owners to raise the bar.
The founder of the consulting firm for small businesses frequents town meetings in Lake Orion and Clarkston and helps out businesses.
‘Just for fun I did a little secret shopping in Oxford this week,? she started.
She visited three stores with the intent to spend money. In two of the stores, she did not see any employees in the store.
?(In) the third store, I was at the counter with my money in my hand while the girl was on the phone. She said just a minute while she was having a personal call,? she said.
‘Business owners talk over and over again how they need more clients. What are you doing about the clients you have right now,? she asked.
She has noticed the chamber and DDA trying to help businesses with different consultants coming in.
‘This is a start,? said VanFossen. ‘We need to connect the dots. We need to communicate and that is valuable information.?
While getting the businesses on the same page for customer service, another idea is to advertise each other’s businesses by word of mouth.
VanFossen and Holly Bills, executive director of Oxford Chamber of Commerce have been working on Business Crawls to help businesses promote other local businesses.
Business and property owners, and anyone else who wanted to go, visit one business at a time for an opportunity to see what is offered by the business and where customers can find products they are looking for.
Downtown businesses can also help customers by pointing out businesses in the Oxford area, not just downtown.
Scheider is working on a business development package for all business owners and property owners coming in with key demographics, promotions, businesses in the area and parking.
‘Packages will be given to (each) to see how their business fit with others. Little groups can feed off of each other because their business fits with another,? he said pointing out clothing stores can help customers with salons, tanning salons, and photographers as an example.
Other ideas included for blocks to band together, to organize and to take advantage of the programs offered by Main Street Oakland County.
‘Mainstreet is a way to get community involved in downtown. It’s getting involved,? said Robert Donohue, Jr., Principal Planner from Mainstreet. ‘Your ideas count. We have 11 communities involved and all communities share ideas. (It’s) not about competition, but sharing and networking and try to get communities to work together.?
VanFossen ended the meeting presenting the 3/50 Project.
‘Think about three independently owned stores you’d miss most if they were gone and stop in and say hello,? she said. ‘Maybe buy something while you are there. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses going.?
The next part is if half of the employed US population bought $50 each month in independently owned businesses, it would generate over $46 billion in revenue.
‘All it takes is one person to start the trend,? she said.