If there’s one thing Karen Fitzpatrick of Harris Jewelers has learned during her company’s 22-year existence, it’s that poor customer service can hurt a business more than a nearby construction project.

Stephanie Westlake, left, and Gina Swift of Harris Jewelers show what teams they rooted for on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, the first day of a two-week promotion. New Mexico Runners mascot Rio stands with them. Gary Herron photo.

After the “Shop Small Saturday” event from Nov. 30 through Dec. 14 in Rio Rancho, Fitzpatrick said business at her shop, north of Southern Boulevard, had been “absolutely amazing — we were busy as heck, man.”

Harris Jewelers, owned by Mark Guerin and Fitzpatrick, staged a lucrative 22-percent-off sale — celebrating 22 years in business.

Fitzpatrick noted that annual sales in Southern’s “construction years” of late 2018 through 2019 were comparable to sales in 2017.

“I expected a 40 percent drop in business,” she said. “I was comparing this project with the ART project on Central — it’s been a little blip. Yeah, they complained. (Customers) let me know how hard it was to get here.”

But Fitzpatrick thinks it was more than a sale that kept customers trudging through construction to get to Harris Jewelers: It was the customer service they received once inside.

“Companies can’t change batteries, can’t change watch bands — it’s a five-second procedure, maybe a 10-second procedure,” she explained. “Customer service is first: If a customer is treated fairly, honestly, nicely… You’d be surprised how many people aren’t treated nicely.

“Trust goes along with that, and you develop rapport; the price you can always work around (with a large selection of price points). The choice of jewelry stores is dropping,” Fitzpatrick added. “There aren’t too many full-service jewelry stores anymore.

She wasn’t looking forward to another two-week “Shop Small Saturday” event, which did work well this year in light of the longer-than-expected construction project.

“I think people are geared for the (one-day) Shop Small Saturday,” Fitzpatrick said. “Two weeks is too much; they’ve moved on to something else.”

Another two-week promotion in late 2020 is unlikely, said Jerry Schalow, president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organized the Shop Small Saturday promotion.

“Shop Small Saturday went well; having it extended into the week worked out well because of the Rio Rancho-Cleveland (championship) football game,” Schalow said. “People could shop and then go to the big game. It was unique to this year because of all the construction on Southern and (US) 550.

“Initial reports from a number of business (are) the revenue increased from (the previous) year… and a number of people remarked they liked the selfie with the mayor,” he said.

Harris Jewelers, True Value Hardware and the Brew Lab had larges photos of Mayor Gregg Hull that people could pose with for a “selfie.”

Another long-time City of Vision business, True Value Hardware, didn’t have construction in front of its location on Southern, but had traffic affected in both directions. Owners reported business was “flat.”

George Meyerson Jr., who joined his father to run the business after he graduated about 10 years ago, said sales were “fairly typical for that time of year. Construction has definitely hindered (sales) slightly, but the business has continued to go up year after year. This year was flat, but the city and chamber have definitely done a good job in preventing it from being a drop-off.”

Schalow said distributing tickets, essentially for customers to win prizes at participating businesses, was a great idea.

“They loved the tickets — we gave out a lot of tickets,” he said. “People said their customers felt rewarded for shopping local.”

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