Even before the Covid-19 pandemic turned the business world upside down, consumers were looking beyond a good price and friendly customer service. With businesses today scrambling to meet the changing economic landscape, the idea of corporate social responsibility is gaining new momentum locally as owners reach out to meet the needs not just of their customers but also of their communities.
Being a “good corporate citizen” is something every business owner should strive for, not only to improve the bottom line but also as a core value. That can be anything from sponsoring local charitable events to organizing community clean-ups to hosting community events.
While taking a socially responsible approach to business and participating in the life of the communities they serve, business owners can also gain the loyalty of customers who appreciate those efforts and gain new business as well.
Several Palm Coast businesses are doing just that – and being a good neighbor and making new friends along the way.
Shara Brodsky talks a mile-a-minute when she describes Chez Jacqueline, a clothing store and gift shop that’s been part of the Palm Coast for 17 years.
“The shop is beautifully laid out, very calming. It is filled with many things, but the way we display our items it’s not overwhelming at all. We have jewelry and home goods, and oh, I love our clothing and accessories,” said Brodsky, the boutique’s manager and design consultant. “I feel like you can really express yourself here.”
Like many shops that are not big box stores, Brodsky said items are unique and one-of-a-kind.
“Our clothing is made in America,” she notes. “And we do customer flora arrangements, wedding gifts, and other specialty gifts. We also do free gift wrapping, and we ship for people.”
Throughout the years, a loyal customer base has been drawn to Chez Jacqueline, and Brodsky said the shop has become a de facto community center.
“We’ve been here so long and know the area so well and make people feel so comfortable, that many folks just come to just for advice,” she said. “It could be anything, even where to go for dinner.”
Or it could be what to wear to dinner, too.
It’s that sense of community that led Chez Jacqueline to help others.
“Everything started about eight years ago; we would have a little wine and cheese night and the girls would come out and do some shopping after hours,” said Brodsky. “It was a hit. Then we had our first fashion show for a local organization and raised $500 for them.
From there, the fashion shows took off, and the boutique now raises anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 a year for area non-profits.
Some of the many groups Chez Jacqueline has assisted in the past include Flagler Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity, Flagler Free Clinic, Flagler Women’s Club, African American Mentoring Program, Camp Coral, and Christmas Come True.
“It’s such a wonderful evening. Everyone pays a fee to participate, usually $15 or $25 or something like that, and it all goes to the organization, 100 percent. We charge the organization nothing; there’s no stipulations,” Brodsky said.
“I’m narrating, we are all having fun. There’s little nibbles, and it’s raising money for the group. For us it’s about creating a service, doing good. Making it personal.”
In addition to enjoying their contribution to the local charitable groups, Brodsky has the important benefit they have gained from being involved with the community is customer loyalty.
“They know we will always support them, and in return they support us,” she said.
Brodsky notes that the first two years Chez Jacqueline was open, their annual print advertising costs averaged $20,000.
“Today, we spend zero dollars on print advertising. We have a monthly email newsletter which reaches 500 customers and we have a small budget to provide wine, soda and hors d’oeuvres for events held at the shop.
“We will never be in the retail Big League, but revenue has increased over the years and this has had to be because of word of mouth as we don’t market through the print media.”
CURLEY TAIL DESIGN
Kim Fitzgerald always wanted to be an artist.
“First I wanted to be an art teacher, and then I swayed away from that. Then I moved towards fine art and I was like, ‘You’re not really going to make a living doing that.’ So my degree at Flagler College in St. Augustine was commercial art with a minor in advertising.”
Fitzgerald furthered her education in Atlanta, and transferred much of her art work into the new world of computers, teaching herself how to use the Apple Macintosh. Today she is creative director of Curley Tail Design, a 22-year-old full-service advertising design studio in Flagler County. It’s a job she loves.
“I’m getting to be creative; I need to do art in some form,” said Fitzgerald. “It just so happens to be in the business world. I also love helping people, the branding side. I love connecting. I have had so many clients over the years and formed marketing relationships, helping promote them. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from that.”
Curley Tail Design offers a number of services, including graphic design, logo design, advertising, marketing, printing, websites and social media, illustration, promotional pieces, and more.
“We’re in Flagler County, and most of the businesses are small businesses. And I’ve done thousands of logos over the years. It’s fun for me when I’m driving and I’m at a stop sign and look over and see one that I’ve designed. It’s kind of like a legacy thing,” Fitzgerald said.
One of her larger clients is the community-based Intracoastal Bank, she notes.
She gets out and meets with existing and new clients, but much of her work is virtual, based in a home office. And although most folks who call do so for a logo or other design work, the name does throw some off, although it comes from a former curly tailed dog Fitzgerald once had named Scrappy.
“Every now and then someone will ask if Curley Tail Design is a dog groomer,” said Fitzgerald. “And I say, well, I could watch your dog, wash your dog, but no, not really.”
Fitzgerald’s passion for art and for people extends to giving, too.
“At least once a week, I get a call. It’s a charity, and they need something, like a flyer done for them. And of course I’m going to do it,” said Fitzgerald. “Now, I might have to tell them I need to finish the job I am working on first, but yes, I will do it. A lot of people need help out there.”
It may be flyers, or postcards, or a logo. A project that was important for her, due to her love of dogs, was to design a wrap for the local humane society to draw attention to their cause.
Fitzgerald said she estimates she donates 10-12 hours a month of her design time.
She donates her time and talents to several charities around Flagler County including United Way Women’s Initiative of Flagler, Flagler Habitat for Humanity, Flagler Auditorium, Rotary Club, Chicks with Cans, and more.
It’s a labor of love, said Fitzgerald.
“We’re part of the human race. So we’re humans and our customers are humans. And we all just need to help each other.”
With her work in the community, Fitzgerald has said her brand presence and word-of-mouth has significantly reduced her need to advertise. Also, she has seen other benefits as well.
“I did receive the national PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan and also a Flagler County grant,” said Fitzgerald.
FLAGLER FISH COMPANY
Chef Chris Casper and wife Carolyn are waiting each morning when it arrives.
Ice. Five hundred pounds of it. It’s a lot. But it’s necessary.
The Caspers own Flagler Fish Company, which is not only a fashionable restaurant in the heart of Flagler Beach but also a seafood market. The ice not only chills the fresh catch of the day, but it also presents it to those who pass through looking for impeccable seafood.
“The display becomes the focal point,” said Chris. “People come in and take pictures at the fish case. It’s pretty wild. Everything is fresh.”
That includes more than a dozen types of fish and a wide assortment of clams, lobsters, mussels, oysters and shrimp. And the chef is committed not only to his customers but to the environment too, so it’s as local as local can get.
“We’re getting St. Augustine shrimp pretty much on a daily basis; clams are from Cedar Key. The oysters are from the Gulf or wherever they’re around,” he said. “We’ve had local triggerfish, which is phenomenal. And our local grouper and red snapper is wonderful.”
Chris grew up near the water on Long Island in New York but spent a decade in Atlanta. He and Carolyn were looking for a change when they drove into town some 15 years ago.
“It’s really a cool little town, one of the most beautiful in Florida,” he said.
Over the years, the reputation for the restaurant has grown.
“People can expect to get fresh, creative food. Our menu is really diverse. We’ve got a really good solid crew of professionals. And we really pride ourselves in being a truly scratch kitchen,” said Chris.
That includes his signature Redneck Scampi.
Part of running a market full of local, fresh catch and operating a scratch kitchen is indicative of how Chef Chris Casper gives back to the community: by being a good steward of the environment. But it goes well beyond those things.
“We were pretty much the harbinger in the area with post-consumer products,” he said. “We’ve been limiting our single-use plastic for years; most everything is biodegradable, and we’ve been pretty proud of that. It’s not cheap, but we started it years ago and we don’t waver on it.
Oyster shells are recycled back to the water to build reefs for more oysters to grow on. Facilities are maintained to eliminate water and electrical waste. And local purveyors are patronized first, including farmers and watermen.
Flagler Fish Company also gives back directly to the community with charity work as well.
“I coach baseball, and the Flagler Fish Company has sponsored a team or multiple teams every year for the past 10 years,” said Chris. “We’ve had a big presence out there, working with kids.”
The restaurant has also been involved for several years with the Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, which celebrates local surfer Tommy Tant, who passed away in 1998 from an aortic aneurysm.
“We’ve helped with Habitat for Humanity, the Women’s Club, many charities and things charitable,” said Chris. “You sort of have a responsibility. We just need to really be responsible.”
In addition to the satisfaction of doing the right thing, there are other benefits too, said Chris.
“We have earned a good reputation, repeat business and many referrals,” he said. “Recognition for our donations to local charities and events has all helped put our name out there in the community.”
That’s translated to saving money on advertising and marketing.
“Yes, good word-of-mouth has definitely helped us out,” said Chris.