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Shareworthy Customer Service Training - Manistee Main Street DDA

From Alliance For Economic Success:


MANISTEE - Top-notch customer service isn't something to toy around with unless you're in Downtown Manistee on April 10. That Wednesday, the Manistee Main Street Downtown Development Authority (MSDDA) is hosting a full day business training called "Shareworthy Customer Service" featuring award-winning speaker, author, small business advocate and third-generation retailer Phil Wrzesinski, who owns and operates 'Toy House & Baby Too' in downtown Jackson, Michigan.

Held at the Manistee Inn & Marina on River Street and running from 8:30am until 5:30pm, the training will help local business owners, managers and employees to identify core values, build positive word-of-mouth, hire and train the best staff and more.

"We know that strong local businesses are a crucial part of our downtown revitalization strategy," says Travis Alden, MSDDA Director. "Providing educational opportunities like this is central to successful business retention. That we were able to get Phil to come to Manistee to lead this discussion is just stellar. He really knows his stuff."

The MSDDA held its first business education workshop last September, which focused on effective visual merchandising for small businesses. Design expert Susan Shaddox was brought in to teach valuable skills to downtown business owners and employees, both in a group and in a one-on-one format.  According to Alden, that training was well received, with nearly thirty attendees from downtown.

"The feedback was great, with many businesses making merchandising improvements immediately," he notes. "We asked what topic businesses wanted to see next, and customer service was at the top of the list."

Suzanne Riley, Owner/Broker of Century21 Boardwalk in Manistee and a volunteer with the MSDDA's Economic Restructuring Committee, echoes that message. "We participated in last year's event and found the information very beneficial. We implemented quite a few of the ideas immediately and saw good results from it. We're looking forward to learning even more this  time!"

Wrzesinski's business is one of America's largest and oldest independent toy and baby stores, and was recently named one of the "25 Best Independent Stores in America" in the book "Retail Superstars" by George Whalin. Toy House & Baby Too has built its business on effective advertising, pricing, customer service and staff development. This translates to a real-world, practical knowledge of what works for small businesses.

"All businesses think they have 'great customer service', yet every one of us has had less-than-stellar service within the last two weeks," says Wrzesinski. "As advertising gets less effective and customers have more shopping options, independent retailers and small businesses are learning that the best way to grow is through word-of-mouth; through taking care of the customer so well, she wants to return and bring her friends with her."

Alden agrees with that statement completely. "Treating customers right by going above and beyond, being super-knowledgeable and passionate about the products they sell is the prime competitive advantage for independent, downtown shops. Those are things that build loyalty. No matter how technology evolves - shopping online or in big-box stores will never be able to duplicate that. It's all about the experience."

Riley is looking forward to the upcoming training. "I'm thrilled that Manistee's MSDDA is offering this opportunity to be educated on customer service; it's a priority for our business. We've heard great things about the presenter. I have three of our staff already signed up for the day's event."

While committing an entire day to staff training can be difficult for small businesses, Riley believes that shouldn't stop anyone from attending. "It's worth making staffing adjustments for that one day. It's an opportunity to take advantage of an abundance of knowledge that doesn't come along very often and invest that back in your business long-term."

There is no cost to attend for businesses located in the Downtown Development Authority district. While the training is geared toward downtown merchants, other area businesses are also welcome to attend for a modest charge of $25 per attendee. Lunch is included for all attendees.

"It doesn't have to just be retailers, either. Service businesses, lodging properties, professional offices, even local government and non-profits would benefit from this." adds Alden. "Any organization that interfaces with customers can take away something valuable."

Wrzesinski is involved in many business organizations including serving as the President of the Midtown Association of Jackson, a downtown merchants group; Vice President and Publicity Director of Jackson Local First Independent Business Alliance; and Curriculum Director for the Jackson Retail Success Academy.

Having been a retailer for many years and continuing to grow his business, Wrzesinski stresses the importance of this training to the success of any local business.

"If you want customers bragging about your store to others, there are certain things you have to do. This workshop will show you what it takes to make your customer service truly Shareworthy. Those businesses who attend will walk away with a tool box full of techniques and ideas that raise the bar of customer service to Shareworthy levels without breaking the bank."

Pre-registration is required for the training, with a deadline of Friday, April 5. To register, contact Travis Alden at the MSDDA office at 231-398-3262 or via email at The training agenda is available for preview at

The Mission of the Manistee Main Street Downtown Development Authority is to foster the development and promotion of an identifiable and attractive downtown area that will strengthen business and a sense of community ownership.


Our Township greatly benefits from Network Northwest's experience, depth of knowledge and understanding. Because they work with so many diverse communities in our ten-county region they understand the local land-use issues and are already working on solutions by the time we realize we need some help.

Susan Odom, Chair, Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission