Small businesses thrive downtown

With an estimated population of 15,856 and an estimated 2,087 companies in Siloam Springs, it would seem that the livelihoods of businesses both large and small are easily accomplished. Yet, there is much work and upkeep behind the small businesses in our historic downtown to keep them sustained.

Many vintage shops and consignment shops are located on Mainstreet Siloam Springs and have learned different methods to keep their businesses in good health. One consignment boutique, Cari’s Closet, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on December 9th.

“It was really scary starting up here. The place was not in good shape and even knee-deep in trash. I also did not have a lot of inventory and I started with just my friends’ and my closets,” Cari Lewis, owner of Cari’s Closet, said.

Lewis said the growth she’s seen in a years time is amazing. “We’ve grown to have 300 consigners in a wide spread of places, not just from Siloam.”

“I’ve been a consigner my whole life and I know what I like, so I know what my customers like,” Lewis said. “They want a good deal and name brands and they don’t want to travel far to get it.”

Lewis said she has gradually learned her audience, and thinks that every small town needs the “downtown center” that gives the town a “cool feel.”

Being next to John Brown University, Lewis has benefited as it has helped her business grow.

“About 50 percent of my customers are from there and their clothes help my business as they drop off clothes before summer when it gets slow.”

Mackenzie Schrader is the owner of Baby & Momma, which opened on Broadway just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Schrader said she relocated her business from a different location in Siloam to gain more foot traffic.

“You can’t explain how good it feels to be in downtown with the support and how we support each other,” Schrader said.

Her business is connected with The Chamber, whose mission is “to provide opportunities to achieve a higher quality of life for the businesses and citizens of Siloam Springs,” according to their website.

“It’s all about networking and getting to know the community, which The Chamber has helped me accomplish,” Schrader said. “I also use Facebook and word of mouth, which are both free ways to get my name out there.”

Another children’s clothing boutique located on Broadway St. is Heather Hill. Owner Heather Lanker said that although she has a store location, her business relies on her online market.

“I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go down here. If their store doesn’t have other ways of distribution, then they are going to have a harder time,” Lanker said.

Although she is no longer connected with The Chamber, Lanker’s primary market is online with Amazon and Zulily.

“There is no rhyme or reason to the way business flows, and most of my customers are visiting in town, or coming from out of town to eat at places in and around Siloam,” Lanker said.

“It is very hard for some of the businesses during the summer as they rely on the John Brown students,” Lanker said. Luckily, Heather Hill has a strong online audience and does well relying on that market of consumers.

Whether online, through social media or community support, just a few of the small businesses on Siloam’s Mainstreet have found their way.

This holds to Mainstreet Siloam’s mission, “to provide leadership to a community initiative for the revitalization of our downtown into an economically vigorous commercial center and a gathering place for hospitality, arts and entertainment with a carefully maintained historic district.”