Anyone walking into might not expect the modest, unassuming shop to be one of downtown Plymouth's fastest growing Internet enterprises.
Pete's is nestled in a small storefront near the corner of the Fleet Street alley. Its current owner, Rimon Warra says his business occupies the same space and looks very similar to the way it did when it was founded in 1949. Leather belts, shoe trees, brushes, bags and a display of immaculately polished leather shoes immediately surround each customer that enters the store.
Led by the efforts of his son Nick, Rimon Warra oversaw the launch of the Pete's Shoe Repair's online retail outlet about eight months ago. Pete's site operates as an eBay store and offers free standard shipping to customers.
"We wanted to get a different demographic of people and make money around the clock, seven days a week," Nick Warra said.
Business has been so successful, Pete's has expanded to an adjacent space, currently used for the Web site's operations, and will open that space as a retail outlet serving the public in about a month. "The site has been doing very well, better than expected," Nick Warra said. "I sold about 300 shoes last month alone. We usually sell about 200 a year from the store."
Nick Warra said that many of his online orders have come from outside of Michigan and estimates that about 30 percent were from outside the United States.
The Warras said their Web site offers customers about 10,000 different variations of their products. They envision their expanded shop containing computers that will give customers access to their entire catalog of products and allow them to order anything they might not have on hand at the store.
New businesses seek success in Plymouth
Pete's ability to transition from an established small business to an international retailer reflects the attractive business climate and strong support that many business owners find in Plymouth.
This past Thursday, Chris Tomei and his partner Craig Turk opened Yogurt Palooza on the corner of Main Street and Ann Arbor Trail. The two men grew up in the area and knew downtown Plymouth was their ideal location to launch their business.
"We grew up in this town, we came here as kids and now that we're adults, we still come here," Tomei said. "We can't believe we got in here, Plymouth was our first choice."
From the moment its doors opened, Yogurt Palooza has seen a steady stream of customers, many of whom have become regulars in a few short days. Tomei greets many of them by name as he explains how Yogurt Palooza will continue to grow upon its early success: offer a delicious product that also happens to be healthy.
"We say our yogurt tastes like ice cream that is bad for you, but it's actually yogurt that's good for you. It's fat free and comes with all the good probiotics of yogurt," Tomei said.
Tomei said the support Yogurt Palooza has received from the community has been incredible and said he and Turk are already planning to open a new store by next spring.
John Buzuvis of the City of Plymouth's Downtown Development Authority said he isn't surprised that both newer and established local businesses are thriving despite a lengthy recession that has plagued many other cities and towns in Michigan. Buzuvis credits the aesthetics of downtown, plus the variety of events and concerts for making downtown so attractive to businesses.
"We get business owners that call us from other cities wanting to locate here or open a second or third location here," Buzuvis said. "Even our chain stores buy into our unique local feel, and our community responds and remains loyal to these businesses."
Rimon Warra agrees with Buzuvis, saying that he could have moved his business or expanded it elsewhere, but wanted to stay loyal to his customers. "There is nothing like Plymouth. Plymouth is a good town," Warra said. "There are a lot of places we could go, but we don't want to."
Pete's Shoe Repair and Leather Goods is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Yogurt Palooza's operating hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, although Tomei and Turk are considering staying open until 11 p.m. on Thursdays. It is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.