One Man’s Attempt to Keep a Small Business Alive in a Bad Economy

For my feature writing class, I wrote this piece on Matt Smith from Outdoor Adventures…

Outside on the sunny steps sits a man-28- who wears a plaid short-sleeved button-up shirt, khakis rolled up to just above his ankles, and Chaco’s threaded with colors of maroon, black, and white. 

 The man under all the camper-esque clothing is Matt Smith.  He is the man whom the success of a small, local outdoor store in Clemson, South Carolina can be attributed.  Outdoor Adventures has been around for 16 years and is located on a road that is frequently traveled in front of Fike Recreation Center.  The building resembles a small house and includes a front porch big enough to fit any visitors who wish to rest their feet.

 Since Smith arrived in August of 2009, the front porch has had more people walk on its steps because of what Smith describes as “great retail experience.”  Before Smith joined Outdoor Adventures, the store was missing organization and expert help.  Smith fixed both of those problems within the first two weeks of joining the team.  “I started straightening up shirts and talking to customers when they walked in,” he said. 

 Ten days after becoming an employee, Smith was promoted to manager and given responsibility.  “I started to kick ass and take names,” he said.  Outdoor Adventures can be described as a specialty retail store and visitors are often from all different walks of life.  

 In order to give customers the best retail experience possible, Smith believes it is important to have enough experience to give advice.  He also thinks that it is important to have a personality that engages others and makes them feel welcome and part of the community.

 Smith possesses all of those characteristics and it showed even as we sat on the front porch during our interview. 

 During our interview, two college age students walked up.  “Can I help you with anything today?” asked Smith. 

“We’re going camping this weekend,” said the man.

“Cool. Where are ya goin’?” asked Smith.

“Somewhere near the Chattooga River and I need boots,” said the woman.

“We’ve got what you need, don’t let me stop you at the door,” said Smith.

After about five minutes, Smith headed inside to give advice to the couple.  Fifteen minutes later, Smith came walking out of the store behind the man and woman- all with smiles on their faces.  The woman was carrying a box with her new boots in it.  

 A co-worker of Smith’s, Katie Bucherati, explained, “Matt will not let a customer come into the store without speaking and conversing with them.”  Smith explained, “I make a bold effort to inject myself into peoples’ conversations and lives.”

 Since Smith arrived, the feeling of the store seems to be positively different.  “Before, employees were taught to sit behind the counter and help people if they needed it,” explained Bucherati.  “Now customers and employees are working together and having fun while shopping.”

 Smith will leave Outdoor Adventures at the end of April to begin his journey along the Appalachian Trail.  He is leaving the store in Bucherati’s hands.  “I’ve helped build a strong sense of engagement between customers and employees here,” said Smith.  “I hope that the outdoor enthusiasts that we hired will continue to give customers the good retail experience that keeps them coming back.”

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