By Emily Williams
Mountain Brook recently was ranked number 23 in America’s Top 25 Best Neighborhoods for Small Businesses.
The ranking was released by Welcomemat Services, a technology company dedicated to providing marketing for small businesses by targeting families that recently have moved to an area.
“This validates Mountain Brook as one of the top communities in the nation,” said Mountain Brook city manager Sam Gaston.
According to Welcomemat CEO Brian Mattingly and Angela Studdard, the company’s representative for the Birmingham metro area, what makes Mountain Brook and its fellow top 25 neighborhoods so successful is support from the community.
“One thing that I love about Mountain Brook is that the entire city is very family-centered and community-centered,” Studdard said. “I see the same great things happening in these other surrounding cities, especially Homewood. The community has these great traditions and they take pride in it.”
It’s communities like Mountain Brook, Mattingly noted, that make small businesses successful because the residents and the city officials understand what a small business gives back to the city.
“When you support a local business, you are making much more of an impact on your own community,” he said. “Those tax dollars are feeding back into the community and flood into better parks, better roads, better schools … . It all adds a lot more value to the city.”
Making the success of small businesses a priority is a hallmark of the city’s government, Gaston said.
“Our City Council, mayor and staff are pro-business and work closely with our Chamber of Commerce to promote our business community,” Gaston said.
One of the ways this filters into city planning, he added, is by continuing to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of the city’s commercial areas – the Mountain Brook, Crestline, English and Cahaba Villages, especially.
In honor of the Top 25, Welcomemat will be highlighting one small business from each of the neighborhoods. The highlighted business in Mountain Brook Village is The Pantry and Stonehollow Farms, which was founded by Deborah Stone.
Studdard said it is one of her favorite places to shop because she doesn’t have to think too much about what she is looking for.
“They do all of the thinking for you,” she said. “I know that whenever I walk in here, I’m going to see something that I have never seen before, but it’s always something I want. I’ll see a handmade leather bag and think, ‘I never would have picked that out, but that is exactly what I want.’”
Studdard added that is in keeping with the spirit of a small business. The customer is never overwhelmed by hundreds of brands of the same product.
“That goes back to the store owner,” she said. “They work in the community, they know people in the community, they often live in the community, so they know exactly what their customer wants.”
The Welcomemat Recipe
It’s that personal connection that Welcomemat works to forge. The company, based in Atlanta, was created because of the disparity between the marketing a small business can afford and that which a big box store can afford.
“Our goal is to help local and small businesses gain access to tools and solutions to make them more successful,” he said. “We started by asking the question, ‘How do we help a small business improve in our country?’”
Mattingly said it became apparent through data collected that a small business attributes much of its revenue to repeat customers. So, in a small town where people have rituals and their regular “hot spots,” that question became, “How do we find new customers?” he said.
Studdard said Welcomemat’s technological services collect data from real estate agencies and banks to identify newcomers to the area. Studdard then provides new residents with a welcome packet that includes fliers, coupons and more that showcase the businesses Welcomemat represents.
“We don’t work with more than one of a certain business and I vet every business I work with, so it’s a thoughtfully curated group of small businesses,” she said.
“We’re not just helping the small businesses reach new customers, but we’re helping new families by introducing them to what the community has to offer.”
When a family moves to a new area, they aren’t just moving away from their old home, they’re moving away from their lives in that town – their favorite pizza place, their hairdresser, their body shop and dentists.
“People moving are leaving behind all of the things they know, so there we can capture a great opportunity, because they don’t have those habits formed yet,” Mattingly said.
While Welcomemat provides the ingredients for a more successful small business, Mattingly said support from the community is crucial.
For instance, in the height of the holiday buying season, the day after Black Friday will be Small Business Saturday. Mountain Brook takes it a step further by maintaining an ongoing Shop Local campaign, championed by its city and Chamber of Commerce, according to Chamber Executive Director Suzan Doidge.
During the holidays, instead of just recognizing Small Business Saturday, the chamber helps boost more small business success by hosting Holiday Open House nights for each of its villages.