Running a Successful Storefront

The right location and features are key. - By Dave Vagnoni

Like many resilient entrepreneurs, John and Cindy Perkins ran their company for years out of their garage. Over time, business was good, but for it to be great the Perkins decided they needed more space and visibility.  “Since moving into our storefront, we’ve gained hundreds of new customers, and annual sales have more than tripled to $800,000,” John says. “Our goal for 2015 is $1 million in sales.”

The Perkins’ company – now called Gray Wolf Promotions (asi/213041) – has grown from a tiny T-shirt shop to a trusted marketing firm. Their Dallas storefront is known for its woodsy feel, unique product displays and fun décor that includes an unmistakable front-door greeter. “We have a 7-foot-tall Gray Wolf mascot,” John says. “He’s a big hit with the children .”

Are you thinking about opening your own storefront? Read on for John Perkins’ advice.

Q: How did you find a good location for your store?

A: We identified a couple of places within a few miles of our house. The first was in a very small strip mall, was inexpensive, but it wasn’t in a high-traffic area. The second had easy on-and-off access from a major freeway, but after negotiation with the leasing agent, we couldn’t get the owner to respond to our counter-offer. Next, we went right across the street to a medium-sized strip mall and peaked into one of the available suites. It looked promising, and so we called the leasing agent, and by close of business we had a tentative agreement.

Q: What  are the benefits of having a storefront?

A: It gives you instant credibility, and it provides customers the opportunity to come and touch products. We also provide our customers the chance to meet with one of our graphic artists to discuss designs for their projects.

Q: What are some highlights of your store?

A: The store has a “northwestery” style theme. An eye-catching feature is a custom-made faux-stone and wood shingles customer counter, and a large Gray Wolf face mounted on a faux-brick wall.

Q: How has your space changed over the years?

A: When we signed our lease for our initial space, we made sure we included the right to first refusal for the adjacent suite. Fortunately, the space was available when we needed it, so we did a fairly intensive remodeling project, which included knocking out the walls, raising the ceiling and adding new lighting.

Q: How much of your business comes from walk-ins?

A: Only about 5% of our revenue comes from retail traffic, but the percentage is somewhat misleading. If a new customer comes in and places an order for a business, we record them under their appropriate organization’s name, and don’t consider them to be walk-ins. We focus on trying to convert walk-ins to organizational customers by learning about them and their families.

Q: What have you done to market your company?

A: Recently, a third-party vendor representing Google came into the store. They asked if we would be interested in having panoramic photos taken of the storefront and production area and they made us a great offer. Now, if someone Googles us, they can see the photos immediately.

Q: What advice do you have for companies considering a storefront?

A: Make sure you choose a location that’s centrally located to area schools, churches, businesses and residential areas. It should also be near  major freeways and be in a new or updated strip mall or similar facility. Also, we recommend adding 2-to-3-year options in your lease agreement to allow for better rates and add a right-to-first-refusal for any adjoining spaces to allow for future growth.

Read an expanded Q&A at