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Shop local: Balboa Island’s Sur La Mer among businesses marking Independent Retailer Month

Susan Dawson, store manager of Sur La Mer Coastal Goods, shows items for sale in the kids' section.
Susan Dawson, store manager of Sur La Mer Coastal Goods, shows items for sale in the kids’ section.
(Susan Hoffman)

In spite of the pandemic lockdown, Stacy Pomeroy took a leap of faith with her two-year-old Balboa Island home decor-gift business, Sur La Mer Coastal Goods.

“We had been in a small space on Marine Avenue for two years when COVID hit,” said Pomeroy. “It was either go big or go home and move to a larger space across the street twice the size.”

Pomeroy, a Newport Beach resident for 14 years, had been a stay-at-home mom prior to jumping into her retail business.

“It was self-preservation,” she said. “I have one son and when he went off to college, I knew I’d go crazy without him.”

With a background in hospitality — having grown up in her family’s Ohio restaurant business — and a love of shopping for gifts, Pomeroy was drawn to retail.

“A lot of what I buy are the things I would want or would give as gifts,” she explained. “If I like it, hopefully other people would like as well.”

Stacy Pomeroy, far right, hosts a fundraiser for Vera Bradley Foundation.
Stacy Pomeroy, far right, owner of Sur La Mer Coastal Goods, hosted a fundraiser for Vera Bradley Foundation in October.
(Courtesy of Stacy Pomeroy)

In April 2020 she set up the new store and boosted its online presence through social networking platforms including Instagram and Facebook to attract area residents.

“The locals were so supportive of us and began calling, wanting to buy things,” said Pomeroy. “Between the phone and online orders, they either picked up [merchandise] at the curb or alley or we delivered.”

The temporary COVID-19 restrictions signage at Sur La Mer was taken down as the California economy reopened in June, a welcome harbinger of better times ahead.

Sur La Mer Coastal Goods store manager Susan Dawson.
Sur La Mer Coastal Goods store manager Susan Dawson places a Nora Fleming mini anchor from the display into a designated hole of a serving dish to create a theme.
(Susan Hoffman)

“The island response has really been overwhelming, so incredibly supportive beyond what I ever imagined,” said Pomeroy. “Even repeat visitors [to town] are also loyal.”

Pomeroy is also proud that Sur La Mer Coastal Goods was awarded one of the 2021 top 50 retailers from industry organization, Home Accents Today.

According to John Pope, public information manager for the city of Newport Beach, “COVID-19 really underscored the importance of shopping local to keep our independent, community-based businesses alive. Now that we are emerging from the pandemic, it’s critical to continue that support.

“Local retailers add to the character of the community, provide jobs for our residents, and generate tax dollars to support local services like police, fire, parks, road maintenance and much more. The difference in community benefit between shopping local and buying online is stark: For every $100 spent with local retailers, $7.75 comes back to Newport Beach to fund city services, versus only 41 cents per $100 for an online retailer such as Amazon.”

July is Independent Retailer Month and a reminder to promote shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

Tom Shay, a fourth-generation retailer created the original event in 2003. He and his partner Kerry Bannigan created the website Indieretailermonth.com to encourage consumers to shop local.

“If the fire department, repairing potholes and having street lights are important to you…shop local,” said Shay.

According to Shay and Bannigan’s site, for every dollar spent at an independent retailer, between $5 and $14 is created in value to the local community. The site describes how shopping local supports local owners, their suppliers, and those they depend on for running their businesses. Supporting the local economy builds confidence in the community while enabling local businesses to prosper and grow, while the site claims that for every dollar spent at a national chain store, about 80% of the money “leaves town immediately.”

The best way to celebrate independent retailer month is to shop local. Independent retail stores struggled during the pandemic, with many of them closing for good. For example, there are nine vacancies on Balboa Island’s Marine Avenue business district. The only way for independent retailers to survive is through community support.

“We encourage residents to shop local because the ripple effects not only support jobs and businesses in the community, it also supports real estate prices and the sales taxes it generates pays for infrastructure, maintenance, public schools and the high level of services provided by the city,” Steve Rosansky, president and chief executive of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, said in an email.

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