New USU store owners hope business picks up

Daily Sundial

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Ever since Sam’s Clothing and Accessories opened Aug. 15, husband and wife owners Sam and Linda Watti have advertised their store by placing ads in the Daily Sundial, passing out fliers with coupons, and setting up shop at an on-campus vendor fair.

Still, they think and hope business will pick up as word spreads about their store.

“Most students don’t even know where the Student Union is,” Sam Watti said. He said he was able to talk to several students at the vendor fair about his store’s location.

“Getting the word out has been a challenge,” said Mirrella Nazarian, general manager of Digital +1 Hour Photo, which opened this fall across from Subway and Wells Fargo in the USU.

Nazarian was also at the vendor fair to promote the location of her store. She recently hired a student to pass out fliers, and also sent out more than 3,200 fliers to faculty and staff with information about what their store had to offer.

The USU is currently undergoing phase two of construction, which includes an outdoor performance area, a computer lab, a coffeehouse and various storefronts, but the area is still open to the public, said Jeremy Hamlett, commercial services manager for the USU. Fences and signs re-direct passersby toward open areas.

After construction is completed and the facility opens in Spring 2006, there will be a walkway from the Oviatt Library leading into the USU.

“Students are aware that the Student Union exists,” said Chad Charton, Associated Students president, adding that there is not too much pedestrian traffic in the USU area because of construction activity.

Natasha Martirosian, a junior at CSUN, has known about the USU since her freshman orientation, but she has not gone there recently because of the construction.

Martirosian said she recently saw Sam’s Clothing and Accessories for the first time.

“A friend and I went to eat at the Mercantile Exchange, and she needed a hair tie, so we went into Sam’s Clothing,” she said.

Neither business has any upcoming new advertising ideas, but Sam Watti hopes there will be a group effort with all the vendors.

The USU may consider holding town hall meetings with all the vendors, said Wendy Yost, associate director of marketing and programs at the USU. This will help the vendors develop marketing strategies to reach the students, she said. Additionally, the USU is coming out with a brochure next month to advertise itself, according to Yost.

The vendors were chosen according to a retail survey done by the USU in Fall 2004. According to the survey, a clothing store and a photo shop were among the highest rated stores requested by students, Hamlett said.

The students pay a USU fee each semester, Yost said.

Once the USU is completed, it will be a center for students because of the programs and events, including noontime concerts, Hamlett said. These events will increase the foot traffic through the USU, as well as for businesses, Hamlett said.

Nazarian is confident of the competitiveness of her store’s prices, and knows that the businesses will grow from word of mouth.

“Students have been good about telling their friends,” Nazarian said. “We depend solely on the students.”

The Wattis have worked just outside of university campuses for more than 20 years, from San Diego to Santa Barbara. They previously set up tables outside the USU, but were considered for the permanent store position following the student surveys.

“We have enough experience to know what the students want.” Said Linda Watti.

Melanie Saxe can be reached at melaniensaxe@hotmail.com.