April 28, 2017
Owning a small business is all about knowing how to adjust
At 16 years of age, most teenagers are knee-deep in school work, learning to drive, dating, school activities and friends. It was a different story for Teri Ann Zide-Pfeffer, who faced the daunting task of taking over her family business.
Located on Main Street in Marietta, Ohio, Teri Ann’s is a fixture in this small community of 16,000 people; a fixture because Teri Ann herself has fought to build a women’s clothing store of renown in the region. She has learned on the job, taught herself to watch trends, to value customer service and to be relentless with her suppliers. And this started when she was 16.
Teri’s father, George Zide, spent 23 years working retail for Sears before he decided to open his own shop, naming it after his eldest daughter. Together, George and his wife, Virginia, built Teri Ann’s into the place to shop for women’s clothes in Marietta. Unfortunately, at the age of 52, George died from heart failure. Only a few months later, Virginia died of an aneurysm. After the sudden loss of both her parents, Teri an was faced with a big decision on how to move forward with the business.
At the age of 16, Teri Ann dove head first into the shop, heading to work every day after attending school all morning. In her words, she and her sisters, Shelly Medley and Missy Deskins, “just figured out how to make it work.” She had learned from her parents, but she was entering a world new to her, and she had to learn quickly to survive and thrive.
She learned early on who she was and what she wanted her eponymous store to stand for. “I wasn’t all about the sale or putting my clothes on sale,” she explained. “I am about making my customers feel good. That is what is important to me.”
Her shop is beautiful and well thought out. She has numerous styles and fashions and she knows her customers, many on which have been coming to her for years. After nearly 40 years in business, she knows what sells and how to please her base.
Yet, as happens in small towns, she has needed to adjust. When Wal-Mart came to Marietta years ago, Teri Ann attended a community-wide meeting and left knowing she needed to make changes.
“I couldn’t compete on price, but I didn’t want to. I decided to raise my prices and offer superior customer service. We were not going to be the cheap retailer. We had to make a decision and live with it and that is what we did,” she said.
As she explains, many small businesses often struggle to determine how to compete with a big box store. Sometimes, you must adjust. “You can’t just do something because you love it. You have to be able to know your customers well enough to change your thinking when it is needed,” Teri Ann said.
To her, that meant not stocking only clothes she liked to wear. She has a wide variety that she knows her customers will like. And she has changed how she sells too, including providing wardrobes to customers who live out of town, shipping clothes around the country. That is how she is learning to compete with the Amazon’s of the world.
After years in the business, Teri Ann, along with her sisters continue to change with the times. She has valued, long-term employees who know their customers intimately. They are all active in the community and their promote not only their shop but the entire Marietta downtown.
Taking over a business at the age of 16 wasn’t part of Teri Ann’s original career path, but sometimes, life takes over and you must adjust. She has been adjusting and changing her whole life, making her clothing store a staple in Marietta.