Local businesses coexist and compete

A new waxing shop, Waxing the City, will open two blocks away from the 15-year-old salon, the Refinery, in Dinky.

Refinery co-owner Megan Smith gives Sarah Snapp an eyebrow wax. Smith says that the Refinery's variety of services and affordable prices should help give them the edge over a new competitor.

Melissa Scharf

Refinery co-owner Megan Smith gives Sarah Snapp an eyebrow wax. Smith says that the Refinery’s variety of services and affordable prices should help give them the edge over a new competitor.

Ryan Faircloth

A new body waxing chain will open a location near the University of Minnesota, two blocks northeast of a 15-year-old Dinkytown salon.
 
The Refinery co-owner Megan Smith said she’s worried the new competition, Waxing the City, will hurt her business, but other local business owners say competition in a niche market can help both establishments expand their customer base.
 
Smith said her shop on 14th Avenue Southeast mainly serves students and graduates, and she said she thinks the new waxing company in the Marshall apartments could take away potential new customers.
 
“It’s hard for us to compete with these big chains that have big marketing dollars,” she said. 
 
The Refinery employs 10 people, and Smith said it can’t afford new-customer discounts and large advertising campaigns.
 
And if the Refinery loses business for a month, she said it puts a strain on its budget.
 
“The biggest thing that we’re worried about is just the exposure and people knowing about them and not knowing about us because we can’t afford to do a ton of advertising and …get our name out there like they can,” she said.
 
But Dinkytown Business Alliance Vice President and Qdoba Mexican Grill owner Randal Gast said introducing competition to local businesses can have its 
benefits. 
 
“In my experience, sometimes the chain might come out on top, but in many cases, the local entrepreneur comes out on top,” he said. “It really boils down to the passion and how good of a job that whoever … owns it does.”
 
While Smith said she’s worried people will choose Waxing the City over the Refinery because its services are described in the name, Gast said a well-established name holds up to competition when the business increases its marketing.
 
Coexistence over competition
 
The owners of local pasty shops Potter’s Pasties and Pies and Lands End Pasty Company say their businesses coexist rather than compete. 
 
Though Lands End Pasty, on Fourth Street Southeast, has only been around for a little more than one year, co-owner Pete Jacobson said it is staying afloat.  
 
“Every month is a little better,” he said. “People are spreading the word; they’re getting to know us.”
 
Most of its business, Jacobson said, comes from word of mouth. He said gaining name recognition requires actively seeking out customers and explaining what the business has to offer.
 
“We’re tucked away at the back of an alley, so we don’t have a ton of street presence,” he said. “But we have a lot of customers that are very passionate about our place, and they’ve been very helpful spreading the word that we exist back here.”
 
Potter’s Pasties markets by setting up shop in food trucks around campus, owner Alec Duncan said.
 
Though its Southeast Como location barely breaks even, he said, it makes a profit by selling out of trucks parked outside Williamson Hall and the McNamara Alumni Center.
 
Both Duncan and Jacobson said the companies don’t compete because each store sells different styles of pasties.
 
Instead, Duncan said two pasty shops in one area gets the word out about the unique food.
 
“This is such a great food for college students because it’s ready to go. They can just come in and grab it,” Jacobson said.