STL Style Captures Yelp’s Attention And Brings National Focus To St. Louis
STL Style is a small St. Louis business is known locally for its quality quirky products and excellent customer service. But now that the store is on Yelp’s national radar, the Cherokee Street shop that sells St. Louis pride items is also now poised to charm the country.
Yelp recently declared that STL Style is one of the nation’s 100 top-rated businesses on its platform — on which customers rate their experiences with all types of establishments from retailers to restaurants — and has invited the twin brothers and STL Style founders Randy and Jeff Vines to San Francisco to attend its annual leader summit November 15-16. While there, the brothers will chat with Yelp executives about marketing techniques and learn from other small business owners about how to thrive while keeping customers happy.
We recently talked with the Vines brothers as they prepared to fly to Yelp HQ.
ALIVE: There are going to be a lot of great businesses from different cities across the country at this big Yelp event in San Francisco. Are you excited to talk to these folks?
Jeff: Definitely. I think one thing that we all have in common is being smaller, independent businesses. They’re really more a part of the local fabric of these different cities than your typical store at the mall. And I’m interested to meet other business owners and kind of network and socialize and make new friends who deal with the same things as we do.
Randy: I think it’s really cool that these businesses are hand-selected; they have certain qualities in common that their Yelp community managers have identified as them being leaders in their local market in whatever category they fall into. And there will be all of these diverse backgrounds in a single conference. I think it could be really helpful in giving us perspective and making us appreciate what sort of things we don’t and do have to deal with as small business owners.
Jeff: Above all, this is keeping St. Louis on the map and just making sure it stays relevant and part of the national conversation.
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Are there any Yelp reviews of STL Style that stick out for you or that confirm that you guys are doing a great job?
Jeff: Yeah, definitely. There are some that really make us feel proud and that mean a lot to us. I mean, for someone we don’t even know to take the time to write a review, a positive review, and they want to share that with everyone? We are hugely thankful for that. One of the common things that almost all of the reviews say is that the customer service is really stellar and that they really feel important when they’re in our store.
Randy: The other thing it does is it enables us to stay in front of potential problems too. Out of all the reviews we have, there are only one or two that have anything even remotely negative, and we feel really lucky about that. There was one person who came in inquiring about a particular design that we were going to be rolling out soon; then a long time passed before we actually did [roll it out], and we never contacted her like we had promised. We’re not perfect, but we’re learning and refining our trade so we can be better at what we do.
Jeff: Those few less-than-awesome reviews are opportunities for us to connect with that particular customer and make them a happy customer. And we’ve gone out of our way to let them know that we really appreciate the comments and that we will do whatever we can, and we hope they come back. And they usually do.
What are some things that new small businesses can do on a shoestring budget to gain attention?
Jeff: Certainly social media has completely changed the game. Six or seven years ago, you’d take out a paid ad in print media just to stay noticed. And now social media is the number one thing to connect with current and prospective customers,
Randy: We started before the advent of social media, before it was really prevalent, and so we had to cut our teeth on the tried and true: customer experience. And that really is what defines Yelp as a medium; it really is all rooted in customer experience feedback. That’s what sets us, I think, apart. You can have the savviest promo campaign and bring out new, cool, fresh stuff all the time, but the experience has to be there. People have to walk into your store and deal with you and feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just this transaction. And I think that we’ve been pretty good at doing that. Because it’s from the heart, it comes from a really authentic place. We’re not here to make millions of dollars pedaling t-shirts; it’s about creating something and tapping into the market that will make people proud of their city like we are.
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STL Style is known for fun events and items during the holidays. What’s coming up for Hanukkah and Christmas?
Randy: We’re going to be expanding! We’re going to be reconfiguring our work space into kind of a production/venue space in our shop and adding more inventory. We’ll also have a whole season lined up of in-store entertainment: live music, some book signings, the Cherokee Print Bazaar is coming back. We’ll be directly involved with the Hanukkah Hullabaloo and also rolling out some new hoodies and t-shirt designs of our own that people have come to rely on for the holidays.
Jeff: I would say by Black Friday, shoppers who have been in our store will notice some major changes, particularly in the venue side of our space, which has been kind of a multi-purpose area. But now we’re going to kind of flesh it out and really increase the real customer experience.