One company celebrated 10 years in business and a rocket-like growth trajectory. Another announced its impending closure after about seven months in business.
One is in Ozark, the other is in Nixa. One business sold food and beverages, the other designs the buildings where food and beverages are sold. Their owners chased two very different industries, but pursued one idea of success. One made it, and another is closing down.
Torgerson Design Partners, which you can read about in this newspaper, started with two people in the midst of an economic recession in 2010. It now employs a team of 24, and it does millions of dollars worth of business with nationally-recognizable companies. It also works with some of the most established local companies, such as Mitchum Jewelers.
Then there is the Dapper Doughnut, a shop that sold craft doughnuts, coffee drinks and other sugary deliciousness. It opened in the summer of 2019, and announced its closure with a Facebook post on Jan. 30.
“We can’t thank our loyal customers enough and truly appreciate the support we did receive along the way,” the official post reads.
Before you read further, yes, I realize that architecture and doughnuts are two radically different business. That’s not the point of this compare-and-contrast exercise. I’m looking at why Torgerson Design Partners is successful, and theorizing why the Dapper Doughnut failed.
The shop did catering and offered all kinds of specialty items around the holidays, but when it came to the brick and mortar, its shop on Aldersgate Drive lost money. If you can’t sell the doughnuts and coffee in the store, the canned food on the shelves, the clothing on the hangers, the cars on the lot, or the newspapers on the rack, your business doesn’t survive.
“Remember to shop small, shop local, and support the hard working small business owners in your community. Without your support, small businesses can’t survive,” the Dapper Doughnut owners shared in their final message to Nixa customers.
These two businesses serve as good examples of how Christian County’s economy is operating at the moment. In Ozark and Nixa, and the communities beyond, service-based businesses such as insurance, medical and anything related to home construction are doing well. Retail businesses and restaurants face a much more difficult road.
“Our service sector like banks, attorneys, dentists and such are stronger than ever,” Nixa Chamber of Commerce President Chris Russell said in a Nixa State of the Community Dinner address that still holds water. “Most of those types of businesses do pretty well.”
Some restaurants in Christian County are strong and manage to do strong business. You can see it from the volume of cars in the parking lot and the need to wait for a table at the host/hostess stand. We also have our share of successful antique stores, boutiques and grocers. Still, there are places that produce and sell good stuff, but don’t make it in Christian County.
“Retail is still struggling outside of some of the bigger stores like Walmart and Nixa Hardware,” Russell said. “It’s a struggle for them to compete with Springfield, Branson and online sales, and the fact that we are still lacking in a variety of choices just causes people to go somewhere else.”
As you can read about in this newspaper, some of Christian County’s key commercial transportation corridors are undergoing improvement or will undergo improvement in 2020. Better roads with more lanes should mean faster travel and less hassle, but it could work against the local economy by making it easier for Ozark and Nixa residents to get out of town and head somewhere else. The road improvements may prove to be double-edged for some business over the long term.
That’s where marketing comes into play for the locals. A good location is helpful, but even the locals may not know about your business if they become accustomed to screaming past the storefront at 55 mph.
“When we know that we have a great product or a service, people in our community do respond well. A lot of our businesses are strong, it’s just making sure that we get the word out that we have these other businesses and helping to support retail, and helping them to develop their product and their marketing,” Russell said.
Have a great product, then do a great job marketing that product. As Christian County residents, it’s up to us to receive that marketing, make informed decisions about what we by, and put our sales tax dollars to use in our own communities.