8 THE QUEENS COURIER • FEBRUARY 22, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Surviving and Thriving Small businesses in Queens
Flushing boutique born online faces familiar challenges in storefront
BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
firstname.lastname@example.org / @smont76
Anita Manfredonia, founder of women’s
boutique Pippy&Lily in Whitestone,
got her fi rst look into the life of a small
business owner at her family’s Italian deli
on Long Island.
A child at the time, she helped out her
grandparents, who emigrated from Italy,
and mother with some of the day-to-day
“I guess it was just in my blood,” she
Originally from Nassau County,
Manfredonia moved to Flushing with her
husband a number of years ago. New to
the neighborhood, she shopped at local
businesses and introduced herself to residents
when she eventually stumbled upon
a home decor storefront on 29th Avenue.
It was then she and the store’s owner
forged a friendship.
At the same time, Manfredonia was running
her women’s boutique, Pippy&Lily,
as an online store. Aft er hearing about
her fl edgling business, the owner off ered
her the chance to display her handbags,
jewelry and scarves at the home store. Th e
move was a great success.
Aft er about a year, the business owner
told Manfredonia that her lease was up
and she felt it was time to close. She
off ered her the chance to take over her
lease — a decision she called a “no-brainer.”
“I felt like it was just meant to be. It was
an opportunity I just couldn’t give up,”
Despite some fear,
years of experience
in the retail industry
for the undertaking.
the Fashion Institute
worked as a buyer
and later took a job
with Macy’s in their
In the 1990s,
observed the national
downturn in the
retail industry, she
decided to branch
out and explore the
web. She took a job
as a director of customer
service and training for a small,
start-up luxury catalog company where
she gained valuable hands-on experience.
Aft er the storefront’s fateful beginning
in 2012, Pippy&Lily saw a rocky start due
to an unforeseeable event: Superstorm
“Th e same month I was going to open,
the superstorm hit,” she said. “I sat on a
chair and looked at the front window and
I saw all these trees in people’s homes.
And I thought, ‘Oh no, no one prepared
me for this.’”
In the following weeks, Manfredonia
decided to send out a call on social media,
encouraging locals to not only stop in
and check out the business, but to use the
space as a place to warm up, have a cup of
coff ee and relax.
“Th ey didn’t have heat, some of these
people. Th ey were getting ready for
Th anksgiving,” she said. “So I said, ‘Come
say hello. Let’s get to know one other.’”
Aft er a few more weeks, neighbors
began to trickle in, citing the impact of
the storm for their delay.
“Th ere’s an amazing group of people
in this neighborhood,” Manfredonia
said. “Not only in this vicinity, but in
Whitestone, Bayside, Auburndale — they
come in from the whole area.”
Today, customers can fi nd a selection of
women’s clothing and accessories at the
boutique. Manfredonia initially stocked
a larger selection of home wares and a
smaller selection of clothing; however,
she found customers were looking more
for the opposite.
Th e business owner adapted, scaling
back her home decor and bringing in a
more diverse range of products including
tops, jeans, sweaters, jewelry and
handbags. All products are unique and
hand-selected from local trade shows and
online vendors. Many wares are produced
by female entrepreneurs, local vendors or
those who donate a portion of proceeds
to charitable organizations, Manfredonia
“I pride myself on having a lot of vendors
in the store that made things by hand
and by women entrepreneurs. I’m really
passionate about that,” she said.
Like other similar businesses, the overall
climate of the brick-and-mortar retail
industry is a macro issue that Pippy&Lily
encounters. To combat this, Manfredonia
off ers shoppers something that e-commerce
titans like Amazon can’t: a personalized
“Th e internet has really given us a challenge.
But it doesn’t scare me,” she said.
“I do what Amazon doesn’t do. I’ll fi gure
out what they don’t do and I’ll do it.”
Manfredonia off ers customers free gift
wrapping in eye-catching prints. She also
off ers what she calls “experience events”
with some frequency, inviting patrons in
for social occasions like “Ladies Night” or
“I think I have to do more things here
that aren’t so much selecting more products,
but having customers experience
something here,” she said.
A personable shopping experience is
another approach Manfredonia takes to
stay competitive against the big chains
and other local businesses.
“I feel like the internet is not personal.
People don’t want to sit in their
homes and shop for everything,” she said.
“Customer service is one of the main
things we need to be great at.”
On a local scale, the business contends
with low foot traffi c. Th e storefront sits
on a small commercial strip, fl anked by a
pharmacy and nail salon, in an otherwise
“I knew I had to build the business
from the bottom. And I knew I wasn’t in
a high-traffi cked walking street. So you
can’t just sit there and wait for customers
to come,” she said.
A strong social media presence is one of
the ways the owner tries to get more new
customers into the store and keep returning
customers engaged. On platforms like
Facebook and Instagram, she posts about
Pippy&Lily’s new arrivals, special events
and giveaway promotions.
Manfredonia also stays engaged with
the community. She off ers local schools
and organizations goods or a community
space for fundraisers. She also hosts charitable
events like National Donor Day,
which seeks to increase awareness about
Th e future looks bright for Pippy&Lily,
according to the business owner.
“My business plan was that you should
be able to buy a few things in my store
and not spend over $100. And so far, it’s
pretty true,” she said.
Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/THE COURIER
Local business owner Anita Manfredonia
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