Photography By Melissa Kelly Photography (melissakellyphotography.com)
From the second you walk into The Little Apple, you feel like you’re walking into the owner’s home. You immediately get a warm welcome from owner, Brandy Deieso, and her dog, Bettie. You’re invited into the bright, open atmosphere of the storefront that was built entirely by her husband, Joe. The candle burning on the front counter fills the entire shop with a fresh scent.
“I always like for my store to smell good,” Brandy said. “One of the first things I love to hear people say when they come in is, ‘Oh my gosh, it smells so good in here!’ It’s a warm welcome for shoppers.”
As customers enter the shop, Brandy always greets her guests to make them feel comfortable, but is certain to let them explore the shop on their own before chiming in.
“I never like shopping at a store when someone keeps asking if I need help with something,” Brandy said. “I always let people look around on their own and usually we start chatting when they clearly look like they need help with something or if an item catches their eye.”
Brandy has a story about every item she sells in the store — where it came from, if it was made by a local artist, or if she owns it herself— so she can always easily direct customers to find what they need.
If she doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for, though, she’s happy to do some digging and find it for you through her wholesale contacts.
“I always try to keep it new and fresh in here, but my customers are always giving me suggestions on what to carry, so I try to take that into account when I’m ordering,” she said.
And if you see something in the shop you love, but need a customization or want to buy in bulk, she’s happy to help with that, too.
Since purchasing The Little Apple in 2013, Brandy has worked to create a level of customer service her shoppers have become accustomed to, but she doesn’t do it alone. She has a team that includes her mom, Joy, Joe, and a few employees who give each customer have a positive experience.
“Nobody is going to care about your store more than your own family members,” she said. “My mom treats this shop like her own, and sometimes, people even think she owns it because they see her here helping at larger events.”
As for Joe, he builds props for the shop’s infamous window displays, he helps with holiday decorating, and even works the register sometimes.
“Joe loves flirting with our lady customers and claims that’s why he makes so many great sales when he’s behind the register,” Brandy laughed.
Besides her mom and Joe, Brandy has a very formal hiring process for her part-time team members.
“I go into other local businesses and see who strikes me as really approachable and see if they are looking for additional hours,” she said. “The people I’ve seen in action while they were working for other Main Street businesses — they always turn out the best.”
Brandy’s team came even more in handy this past year when Brandy and Joe welcomed their baby girl, Estella. Though Brandy was nervous to go on maternity leave, she was grateful to have the chance to, thanks to one of her team members, Alicia.
“I could never thank Alicia enough,” Brandy said. “Most small business owners don’t get much time with their newborns.”
Now that Estella is here, having her mom in the shop on busy days, during events, or around the holidays allows Brandy to rotate feeding the baby and keeping her eye on the store.
For days when she’s all alone in the shop, Brandy came up with a clever way to step out of the shop for a few minutes to nurse Estella. A sign hangs on the door that says, “Feeding the baby. Be back in 10 minutes depending on how hungry she is.”
“People are really good about not getting mad about my little sign,” she laughed. “If you make it funny, they don’t usually get mad.”
Though Brandy hates closing the shop for any reason, she hopes she can make up for her few minutes out of the shop by the great customer service she provides year-round. Brandy’s customers are also likely understanding because many have become part of her family — watching her family grow just as much as she has been able to watch their families expand. And, connecting with her customers is what’s it’s all about for Brandy.
“I don’t know if I’m just lucky the store has attracted such nice and wonderful people, but because they are so supportive, it gets me excited to come in every morning,” Brandy said. “This isn’t brain surgery — you want a shop to make you happy and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Though Brandy has won other “Best Of” awards in the past, she said winning Best Customer Service means the most to her.
“People want to come into your shop if you’re making them feel good and doing everything you can to create the best possible experience for them,” she said. “People can see through phoniness, so the fact that I won Best Customer Service tells me people see that I’m really happy to be here. I love interacting with my customers, hearing their stories, watching their families grow and all of the wonderful things that make it fun for me to come in everyday, so I’m glad to see that it’s translated to the voters.”