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Experience, savvy key to store’ssuccessful start

Diane Stanbury can look out the front window of her shop and see the Ruby’s Fine Gifts store that closed on May 1, the latest victim of the economic downturn.

While she laments seeing the large store vacant in the same Fowler Shopping Center where her Blue Moon Apparel store has been for the past year, the 53-year-old is quietly optimistic that her business will survive where others have failed.

But, Stanbury said, it’s never easy when you’re running any business, much less a new one.



“You’re always nervous about whether you made a good decision or not,” she said from her shop, which is next to SaveMart supermarket on Nevada City Highway.

Business owners face a new reality these days. Gasoline and oil prices are climbing faster than the mercury in August. At the same time, homeowners are seeing their equity nest egg shrink after a dizzying climb in property values in the past five years.




Stanbury opened her women’s clothing store last June, not long before the energy and foreclosure crisis sent California’s economy into a tailspin that has many people hanging on to their dwindling discretionary income.

But Stanbury feels like she has certain advantages over those who maybe taking the leap into retail for the first time.

She has 30 years of experience as clothing buyer, knows how to put together a business plan, found a store with a good location and was relatively inexpensive to outfit, and she keeps her prices low for a group that likes to shop.

“The majority of my inventory is $30 and below and that’s hard to find,” said Stanbury, adding that “I get a lot of mom-and-daughter shopping.”

Stanbury worked for 17 years in the specialty retail business in the Bay Area and another 13 years for Great Outdoor Clothing on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

She moved to Grass Valley about a year ago. Her husband, Kedar, works as a financial analyst for Macy’s in San Francisco and commutes between Nevada County and the Bay Area. They recently bought a home in the Peardale area in rural Grass Valley.

In her career, Stanbury said she has developed an extensive network of contacts among clothing manufacturers and brokers that allows her to offer discounted clothes with brand names like Old Navy, Abercrombie, American Eagle and Gap.

“I buy overstocked items,” she said of her purchasing strategy.

In addition to keeping her overhead and inventory costs low, Stanbury said it is important to know your market, which in her case means carefully watching what sells and what sits at her store.

“The most important thing is to find what people need and then keep it affordable,” she said.

Mary Ann Mueller, president of the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, said she’s seen many aspiring entrepreneurs fail over the years due to a lack of experience.

“I’ve seen people come here with a $100,000 or $150,000 and decide they want to start a business without even having a business plan,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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