We love downtown Daytona Beach and Beach Street. Unfortunately, many do not.
We worked very hard creating a store people loved to visit and a store that was a true asset to the downtown. We even took on a project to create a new memorial and statue for our namesake, Brownie the Town Dog of Daytona Beach — which is actually having a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 30, 2018 at 6 pm!
But we simply weren’t getting enough traffic into our store to warrant renewing our lease.
A physical store takes money. Rent, merchandise, credit card fees, utilities, marketing, and on and on. We were up for a renewal on our lease and looking at the books, we decided that our Beach Street location just wasn’t working.
So we asked ourselves: If we stayed open one more year, do we think the traffic get better? The answer was no. Even if we doubled our sales volume (online and in-store), we still wouldn’t be making much money. And doubling in sales volume would not be a realistic goal in one year.
Then we asked ourselves: What about moving to a new location? We looked at Ormond Beach and found a great spot. We almost signed a lease. But the rent was more expensive and although we saw lots of cars whizzing by, we didn’t see a lot of actual people and worried that traffic would be enough to justify the rent increase and a longer term lease.
But what made us pull the plug in the end was the realization that we didn’t want to work the store every day and needed employees. Looking at the books again, showed that the only way the store would work is if we worked it ourselves and we both had other gigs that were calling us and that payed much more.
It was a very hard decision. This was a passion project for both of us and we lost a bunch of money, time and energy, but we also learned a lot and met some amazing people and dogs, and accomplished some awesome stuff. Now that the store is closed, we have no regrets. It’s just sad that our business couldn’t really work on Beach Street.
Some questions we get asked a lot about the store closing
Why didn’t you sell the business?
We were super well known for a business that had only been open for 2 years. We had more Facebook followers that ANY dog store in the area including the two in Deland. But again, those books. When potential buyers looked at the books, they realized that the only way this would work with the current traffic is to work the store yourself. That was a hard sell.
Why didn’t you add grooming and boarding?
Most dog boutiques can’t make it on retail alone. The ones that do tend to be in tourist areas. Sillie Willie’s on Flagler Avenue in New Symrna Beach is a great example. Most of our customers were tourists, but again, we didn’t get enough of them.
Grooming and boarding would appeal to local customers, not tourists. Downtown Daytona has a very small residential population that would pay to have their dog groomed or boarded. How do we know? We tried grooming on a trial basis for 2 months, and we had trouble getting people to make appointments and those that did often didn’t show up. Plus we weren’t doing the grooming ourselves, so most of the money went to the groomer.
Why didn’t you advertise?
We did. We advertised in coupon books, arts programs, the News-Journal, the tourists guides, Facebook and so many other places. We joined the Chamber of Commerce. Bought a full page ad in the Daytona Beach Symphony Society program. We attended local events. We even set up shop in the Daytona Farmers Market. But still, it didn’t bring in much local business or tourists. Most of our traffic either walked by and saw the store or found us on Google.
Why didn’t you lower your prices? You were too expensive for the area!
Our prices were very good. We sold everything for less than the suggested retail value. We visited EVERY dog boutique in the area and all the Petsmarts, Petcos, etc around. Yes, we were more expensive than Walmart and the feed store. Most of our products were Made in the USA.
Lowering our prices would not have brought more sales. How do we know? We did it! We had a 50% off sale staring in February 2018 until we closed our doors and people STILL found it expensive. 50% off means we are selling at cost, which means we just got the money we spent back. Which means we made no money on those sales.
What do you think is wrong with downtown?
Truthfully, downtown Daytona Beach is great. It has wonderful infrastructure. The awesome Sweetheart Trail and Riverfront Park. Great bridges. Interesting stores and restaurants. What it lacks is people.
Many locals don’t like coming downtown or rarely think of it. We don’t blame them. If you live in Ormond or New Symrna or Port Orange, you have nice parks and stores to go to. Why schlep to Daytona? Plus, many locals simply think downtown sucks and is dangerous. They can’t stand walking from their car to a shop or restaurant. They want a parking space right in front of the door. This tough to overcome.
Also, locals don’t really notice change. The speed limit on Beach Street is too high and the drivers never even notice pedestrians, let alone new shops. One of my favorite stories about our final days in business was a woman who taught yoga at Renew Yoga studio. She has been teaching there for years and she only just realized we were open in the final weeks of our business. We asked why she didn’t notice a shop 3 doors down from the door she walked in every week. She said she just never looks up. That’s tough to overcome.
It’s also tough to get local to cross water. Beachside folks (which we are) seem to think crossing the bridge is too much to ask. Walking for many is a chore, so walking over a bridge from the library is impossible.
As for tourists, they are the majority of the traffic on Beach Street. They come for the chocolate at Angel and Phelps. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Redevelopment folks or the other groups that champion downtown do much to let tourists know what Riverfront Shops of Daytona Beach (what a terrible name!) is.
It’s a historic area, but no one knows it. It should be a place to rent kayaks and walk and people watch, but it’s not really there yet. And most of our tourists are not the kind that are looking to do something active or spend much money. It’s a burger and fries crowd.
We don’t even have a sign on the ISB bridge telling people that there is a downtown that they can turn either left or right to explore. But there are signs for Manatee Island and City Island and what tourists or local is seeking those out?
Think about that. We have thousands of cars driving over the bridge to get to the Beach and we don’t tell them that our downtown even exists!
Why can’t downtown Daytona be more like Deland?
Deland has young people and people who get excited when something new opens. They want the town to succeed. They also only have ONE downtown.
Downtown Daytona needs more residents. Downtown needs people who are passionate about downtown. We don’t have that.
Daytona has too many areas that need revitalization. Main Street, Beach Street, Seabreeze, Granada, Canal. That’s a lot of downtown that’s not connected for this area to support.
People say we get over 10 million visitors a year – which would keep most cities humming through the year happily or at least support a decent tourist season, but we don’t see how those numbers are accurate.
Where are the crowds? On the beach? We go to the beach often. We live on Beachside. We rarely see thousands of people on the Beach or in the streets. We have lots of cars. Sometimes lots of motorcycles, but no many people. Go to other towns in Florida – even small ones – they have people.
Daytona also has a stigma. Bike Week, Nascar, Spring Break, beach driving are well known and they turn off just as many as they turn on. For many those events color their image of Daytona Beach and many choose to go to other beaches instead.
Did you guys make any mistakes?
YES! Tons. I could list a bunch, but all in all we did a really excellent job. Brownie’s would have worked almost anywhere in the country. Rehoboth Beach, DE gets 10 million visitors each SUMMER. They have FOUR dog boutiques within blocks of each other – all thriving. Deland has two. Daytona Beach is just a very different animal.
So, there you have it. Our thoughts on why our shop closed. We hope this helps as others try to crack a very difficult nut that has so much potential.
We hope you keep up with us here and on Facebook!
We still have plans for Brownie and Brownie’s Dog Boutique.
Eddie and Alvin