Main Street Beats Out Online Commerce, with Mary Zigmond

by Sam Sentelle

Mary Zigmond speaking to Rotary about what she's learned about being a small business owner over the years.

Mary Zigmond with The Gallery and Hurricane Floral

Main Street Beats Out Online Commerce, with Mary Zigmond

January 23, 2018

Mary Zigmond became the proud owner of The Gallery in Hurricane ten years ago. It’s been a rough fight against the growth of online retail business, she told Putnam Rotarians today. With a marketing degree from West Virginia University, she set her goal early to own and operate her own boutique. When the opportunity came, she took the plunge. And she learned some things along the way that she missed in her business training at WVU.

“I laid awake many nights,” she said. “How am I going to pay this bill? How am I going to deal with that person who is stealing from me? I got to the point that I just had to trust God, because I had to sleep.”

She was short on money to meet payroll one Friday. But on the day before, a customer made a purchase which enabled her to get through the crisis. “Be kind,” she said. Sometimes a customer is not satisfied, even though you have spent hours and filled the order exactly as requested.

“Be passionate,” she added. “Why are you here if not to love what you do?”

Once she had a rush order for a $20 floral arrangement. A customer was going to propose to marry a girlfriend when he met her at the airport. She worked late. The flowers were ready on time — and the proposal was accepted. “As a florist, you have to be in the business on a daily basis, because that’s your bread and butter. Two days a year, Valentine’s Day and the Friday before Mother’s Day, my husband will take off work to help me. “Be involved,” she said. “It took me a long time to make connections. I didn’t want to be out front.”

The personal involvements in her business, said Zigmond, “that’s what it’s all about. Yes, I will make mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes. We all do. We’re not perfect. But I want to lie down at night knowing that I have done all I can for whom I can. Of all the things we do throughout the year, I can almost tell you every little detail about when we’re there. We prepare the flowers, and we pin on the flowers. And we’ve just given them a dollar’s worth of flowers. And yet, you’d think I had given them a million dollars. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about my being able to do something, but being able to do something for somebody else.”

That approach is the difference between shops like The Gallery in Hurricane and the national retailers online.

Mary Zigmond has remodeled the Hurricane Floral shop on Main Street. She caters meals for weddings, birthdays and special occasions. She sells trendy clothing. She maintains a generous stock of unusual gifts.

And she has joined a growing number of specialty shops and boutiques which have brought new life to the Main Street of Hurricane. These include Saving Vintage, the little antique store, next to Mountain Que — home of smoked barbecue and all beef hot dogs with homemade chilli. Next door is the Putnam Music Exchange where guitar lessons are available, and instruments may be bought and sold and repaired. Then there’s My Bella serving sweets, baked goods and over-the-top shakes. “One shake will serve two people.”

These attractions and others specialize in personal services and unique specialties, something of interest for everyone — as with Mary Zigmond’s The Gallery: “One shop. Many discoveries.” Some would say Hurricane has always specialized in personal services and customer satisfaction — like Rappold’s Barber Shop & Hair Salon around the corner, which has passed through three generations since its doors first opened in 1906.

Mary Zigmond speaking to Rotary about what she's learned about being a small business owner over the years.

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Sam Sentelle

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