CAMBRIDGE – Sunnyside Shop celebrating 10 years of business in grand style this past weekend. The store offered a discount on everything in the store for the weekend. It’s was an opportunity for shoppers to realize some great deals downtown prior to the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday frenzy, but it was also a way to show appreciation for everyone in town who has supported the business.
Sunnyside’s owner, Heidi Griebel, originally opened at 519 Poplar St. Two moves later, the store has sold women’s clothing, accessories and jewlery for eight and a half years in its current location at 500 Poplar St. From its inception, the focus of Sunnyside has always remained consistent. Ms. Griebel strives to sell environmentally friendly, American-made and fair trade products.
“I was always passionate about those types of products,” said Ms. Griebel. “In our early years of business it was often tricky to find those sort of goods. But now, it is more mainstream. People care about the integrity of what they are buying. I happened to pick a good path.”
Sunnyside experienced challenges before even opening their doors. Because much of the historic downtown building inventory had not been properly maintained, there were few viable locations to choose from. Also lacking were attractions to lure people onto Poplar and Race streets. Survival became even more difficult with the economic downturn that began in 2008.
“There were five incredibly lean years, but we struggled through it,” she said.
In recent years, downtown Cambridge has begun to experience a resurgence. Thanks to large investments by development groups and small business owners, a number of the previously-unrentable buildings began to attract new ideas and generated some interest. Restaurants and events like Cambridge Main Street’s Taste of Cambridge – Crab Cookoff began coordinating with the Hyatt Chesapeake to attract visitors to town.
Cambridge continues to become a destination and Ms. Griebel believes consumers have become more conscious about how they spend their money.
“I think there are a variety of reasons, but peoples’ perspectives have changed,” she said. “There is a huge push to shop local. People are more conscious of where their money is going and what it is being spent on. There is integrity behind what we sell at Sunnyside, and that isn’t always the case at the big box stores.”
“Small business owners play a huge part in establishing a city’s identity. Larger companies come in and impose their cultures, while local, small-business owners incorporate the existing culture into their stores,” said Cambridge Main Street Executive Director Brandon Hesson. “Heidi is an important fixture in our town, because she can connect a difficult past to what we all hope will be a prosperous future.”
Looking forward, Ms. Griebel knows there will continue to be hurdles.
“I am still here, but I am not a huge success story yet,” joked Ms. Griebel. “If you can get to the other side of a long depression like we’ve had, you learn to run a tight ship. It definitely makes you stronger.”
“Ten years of business downtown is something that should be celebrated,” said Mr. Hesson. “There isn’t a blueprint to success, but it sure does help to have a few examples for future business owners to emulate. Sunnyside is that for us here in Cambridge.”