Afton Village Merchants Talk About Finding Success


Independent Tribune

Published: January 23, 2011

CONCORD, N.C. — Men are from Mars and women from Venus, but how does that translate into business ownership?

Studies show women possess certain traits that men don’t, and when it comes to business those differences might make a difference.

Women entrepreneurs tend to be more conservative when it comes to money matters. Women in these studies tended to emphasize profits and quality, while men emphasized rapid growth. Women also worked to minimize work-family conflicts.

Sitting down with five women who own businesses in Afton Village, the discussion started on what makes them different from their male counterparts.

Women are either owners or co-owners of most of the businesses in Afton Village, starting with developerDavid Mayfield and Kelli C. Stevens.

Together, the two created a neighborhood feel for residents of this mixed-use development, but also a strong community feel among its retailers.

Women-owned businesses account for about 28 percent of all businesses in the United States. That represents about 775,000 new startups per year. In 2005, there was an estimated 10.1 million women-owned firms in the United States. Those businesses employed 18.2 million people and generated $2.32 trillion in sales.

Women-owned businesses grew by 19.8 percent between 1997 and 2002, while U.S. firms grew by seven percent.

Elizabeth Arant and Teri Reno were among the first merchants in Afton Village. Reno owns The Wine Room;Arant owns Elizabeth’s Treasures, a retail gift shop. This was Reno’s first attempt at business ownership.

Both businesses have been open since 2003. In that time, Arant has expanded twice, despite recession concerns.

Is passion what drives women farther than men?

“I’m doing what I love, but when I came here, I was a single mom with three children, so I definitely needed the income,” Arant said.

Most new businesses take time to establish themselves and become profitable.

“You have to go into it knowing it could take three to five years to make money. That’s a given,” Arant said.

She looks at the passion question two ways. Sure it takes passion, but she is also in it to make money like any business owner.

“I always say dollar signs have no gender. Whether it’s one dollar or two dollars, it’s still green dollars,”Karren Kwongowner of E-Noodles & Co. Asian Bistro, said. “Of course, it’s a competition. Isn’t that what makes it good?”

New businesses to Afton Village are also seen as a way to bring in more traffic, not necessarily competition.

“The concepts are so different,” said Lindsey Schumacher, owner of the newly-opened Afton Tavern. “There is some competition there. People could eat at Afton Tavern or E-Noodles, but it’s a totally different kind of food. I don’t feel by my coming here Karren is going to lose a lot of business. She has great food — a specific kind of food.“

The variety of restaurants and assorted retail stores leaves room for all the merchants to succeed.

“I feel like everyone here is willing to work together,” Reno said. “I don’t feel like it’s gender based.“

The women weren’t ready to concede gender plays any factor.

“You can’t be in business if you don’t make money,” Arant said. “You can’t stay in business.

Everyone has to make money. Men might be choosing a business because it’s a moneymaker versus the passion. I do see that point.“

“The one thing I’ve noticed about everyone here is that Afton Village, for whatever reason, attracts small mom-and-pop shops, independent stores,” Stevens said. “They have the flexibility, as oppose to some of these franchises, to change what they are doing and play with their business plans to see what’s working.”

That gave the women greater latitude to change course during the recession, and may have helped them weather the financial storm.

Stevens is slow to take credit for the quality of businesses that have moved into Afton Village. She andMayfield did know they wanted a particular boutique feel. They took their time choosing tenants for retail spaces, she said.

What has organically occurred among these chosen businesses could be what creates the success each has encountered. They created a vision for their retail merchants being a major part of a community.

Business owners know their customers by name, and consider those relationships to be the conerstone of the successes thay have achieved. They don’t deny that the future is always uncertain in business, but together these women just may have an advantage.

For more information on Afton Village got to

Conatct reporter Robin L. Gardner: 704-789-9140