Mom-and-Pop Business Goes Under:
“When we first opened, we slowly built up a business of 400 corporate accounts,” Stanich said. “That has now dwindled to 70. In fact, we often see delivery trucks from competing superstores delivering stationery to our former corporate customers.”
Rather than harbor bitterness over the loss of her customer base, Stanich, now in her early 70’s, says she has accepted what she refers to as “evolution” but worries that her older customers will now find it difficult to shop for stationery elsewhere.
“A lot of our customers are senior citizens,” Stanich said. “They come here because they know we can give them personal attention. They are intimidated by the superstores.”
Stanich is determined to go the extra mile to continue serving her loyal customers should they struggle to find a particular item of stationery.
“I have given my customers my home telephone number, in case they need me to help them locate their favorite stationery,” she said. “Some of them don’t know the name of the brands they buy. I always used to give it to them straight off the shelf. I knew their individual requirements.”
Stanich is assisted by three family members and employee Stephen Ditoro, who she says “is like a son to me.” Fortunately Ditoro, who has been a staff member for 22 years, has been offered new employment with a current corporate account holder.
Ditoro’s most treasured memory of the business revolves around a small boy who recently came into the store with his parents.
“They were explaining to him what a mom-and-pop type operation was all about, and when he heard we were closing, he took a quarter, dime and two pennies from his wallet and put it on the counter as his contribution to help keep us open,” he said.
Stanich says she will miss the children that come into her store, especially during the school summer vacation.
“Our customers from when we first opened had children and we watched them grow up and get married. They in turn had children and now a third generation comes into the store for their school supplies. It was always so nice to catch up with their news,” she added wistfully.
To City Council member Mike Feinstein, the store’s closing is one more indication of the need for protections for family-owned businesses in Santa Monica.
“On the council, I have consistently raised the negative impact of big box chains on locally-owned and operated businesses, and on community character. Maybe next time we debate the issue, people will remember these people and the role they've played in our community, and not always think 'bigger is better',” Feinstein said.
So what does the future hold for Dessie Stanich?
“I’m not exactly sure,” she said with a smile. “There is a plan for me. I just don’t know what it is yet. I am actively involved in volunteering, so can do more in that area. I was brought up with a strong work ethic—I will definitely not be able to sit around and be idle!”
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