WOODBRIDGE, Conn.–A year and a half ago, Gail Greenberg couldn’t see The Write Approach, a small stationary shop in Woodbridge, lasting.
Pearl-Ellen Shure, who owned the shop with Greenberg, had just died from cancer after running the business for more than 30 years.
Greenberg said that when Shure was falling ill last year, they made a promise to one another.
“We promised each other,” added Greenberg, “as long as we were having fun, we would keep the store.”
Not only did they continue having fun with the shop, a new grant and a new location continued to help increase business.
The Write Approach moved from Whalley Avenue to the Amity Plaza five years ago. Then last year the shop received a state Small Business Express grant, that allowed it to hire the newest employee, Stacey Franzman, making the total employee count five.
According to the EXP (Express Program), all candidates for this grant must be a small business with fewer than 100 people, among other requirements. Shure started the grant process, but died before they received the grant. The $15,000 grant, received in late 2013, was used to expand their staff, and e-commerce website to finally begin efficiently selling goods online.
“The grant was not hard to complete at all,” said Greenberg. “We were very hopeful to get it because we had a niche.”
Greenberg said that she and Shure wanted to make the business reach its full potential, and Franzman helps toward that goal.
“She was hired specifically to do the computer work for the new website,” said Greenberg.
What Greenberg said made The Write Approach different than most businesses applying was that they were a small business owned by women and are catered completely to customer service and creating a family of customers to last a lifetime.
Greenberg considers amazing that the customers’ loyalty stretches over generations. She said that she has watched her customers who started out picking wedding invitations, now coming to the store to order their daughter’s wedding invitations.
“We have a family here,” said Greenberg. “And it’s beautiful.”
Their busiest time of the year is December; however, most of their business comes from brides year round purchasing personalized items or choosing items for their gift registry. The store holds local artists’ work, boutique clothing and handmade jewelry. Greenberg said that though these items are not their main focal point, they are a great asset to the store because of the diversity they bring.
In the past, the store only sold personalized stationary and invitations. They began selling unique specialty gifts within the last eight years. Their business really took off after they changed locations to their current residence in the Amity Plaza in Woodbridge.
“Our sales have gone up by at least 50% since we moved,” said Greenberg. “Our new store has easy access in and out of the parking lot, a wonderful store front with lots of parking and central to the parkway and local access.
The new location gives their store beautiful scenery, and Greenberg calls the plaza, “downtown Woodbridge,” since, technically, the town does not have a center.
Ellen, a loyal customer and Woodbridge native who wouldn’t give her last name, said has been coming to the Write Approach since its inception 30 years ago.
“We went through a speed bump here when (Shure) died,” said Ellen, who wouldn’t give her last name.
She used “we” because she considers herself as part of the family at The Write Approach, even though she never worked there.
“I am originally from here,” she said. “But moved to California for a while, now I am back.”
She wandered around the store for several minutes before approaching the service counter and striking up a detailed conversation with Greenberg about her latest home improvement projects. The conversation was animated and filed with laughs which made it clear that customer service and lost-lasting relationships is a key element Greenberg values in her business.
“We love our people,” Greenberg said. “Our customers are like family.”
Ellen’s ties to Gail and The Write Approach run deep. Not only did Ellen become a valued customer, Gail and the staff at The Write Approach became her dearest friends. Even moving to California and back did not affect the close-knit bond between her and the shop owners.
“Time passes…you may live in other places,” Ellen said. “But there are relationships that will always pick up again.”