When Jim and Alicia Chrastil’s antique mall and coffee shop was devastated by the 2011 Missouri River floods, the Iowa Small Business Development Center at Iowa Western Community College helped them devise a plan to manage their current expenses and obligations, worked with creditors, and provided marketing advice.
Finders Keepers Antique Mall & Coffee Shoppe is located in a truck stop area in Iowa off of Interstate 29 just over the border from Nebraska City, Nebraska. Owners Jim and Alicia Chrastil host a coffee shop and rent booths and display cases to other antique dealers. This business concept has served Finders Keepers very well since October 2004 and because of the diversity of the antiques available, the business has garnered a very good reputation throughout Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
In the spring of 2011, Jim and Alicia were faced with major devastation to their business. The Missouri River was on the rise and had started to spill over the levy that protected the business and truck stop area off of Interstate 29’s Exit 10, where their shop is located. The Iowa DOT closed the interstate in late May, shutting off access to all of the businesses in the truck stop area. Unlike many flood-related disasters this was a very slow moving disaster and there was no telling when the waters would recede and businesses could be reopened. Jim and Alicia had access to Finders Keepers through the middle of June but they could not open for business due to the looming floodwaters.
During the time their business was closed the Chrastils were without an income from the business, they lost customers to other antique dealers, and also lost a few of their renters to other antique malls. Their business reserve was diminishing rapidly and they soon were digging into their personal savings to keep their bills paid.
Alicia and Jim contacted the Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs for help in finding financial assistance. Because of the slow nature of the flood an emergency declaration for funding was delayed and their losses and expenses were adding up. Financing a loan, even a small interest disaster loan, was not a great option for the Chrastils because they didn’t know whether they would be able to open for business again.
SBDC Regional Director Sue Pitts worked with Jim and Alicia on researching various assistance programs. She then worked with the State of Iowa and other creditors in delaying some of the Chrastils’ payments. Sue gathered statistics on losses and other vital information about the Fremont County area so Alicia and Jim, plus other affected area small businesses, could work with the resources available to them and hopefully survive the flooding.
The Missouri River flood waters finally receded in October 2011. With the SBDC’s help, plus many other gracious people, Jim and Alicia were able to reopen their business and have welcomed back most of the dealers that share their antique mall space.
The Chrastils then went back to the SBDC for help in marketing their business. They had originally relied on their reputation and their dealers’ reputations to spread via word of mouth through the antique community, but now they had to start over. This time marketing needed to be different and more technical; Jim and Alicia knew they would have to tap into inbound and digital marketing strategies. Sue helped the Chrastils devise a new company website and continues to help them with additional ways to get found online through blogging, social media, and more.
Alicia praises the help they received from the SBDC saying, “Sue Pitts was very responsive and understanding to our unusual circumstances and gave us some great ideas to help grow our business and online presence.”
With the help of the Iowa Small Business Development Center, Jim and Alicia saved their livelihood, retained three other jobs, and hired three new part-time employees. Their business can be found online at www.FindersKeepersMall.com and customers can find all about special deals by going to Finders Keepers Antique Mall & Coffee Shoppe on Facebook.