Retail report: Kerrytown's Heavenly Metal owner reflects on 10 years in business
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Almost 28 years ago, she started cutting people’s hair in a small rented space on East Ann Street in Kerrytown, and for a good portion of that time she organized the Ann Arbor Film Festival from the same building.
But after leaving the festival in the hands of new management, Honeyman, an artist at heart, found herself filling the space at 207 E. Ann with recycled metal artwork, jewelry and other items for sale.
“Then I started to realize, if I’m going to do this, I better come up with a name,” Honeyman said about her accidental leap into the retail world.
“It’s not like I planned to open a store, because if I had thought about it, I never would have. It’s a big commitment,” she added.
Since early 2003, Heavenly Metal has grown and evolved as Honeyman has learned more about owning a business. She continues to cut hair in a corner of the store and carries a variety of inventory — from purses and apparel to artwork and jewelry. She makes a point to stock American made and handcrafted work.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
A lot of things at Heavenly Metal happen on a whim — like the time Honeyman bid and won a set of 100 used cowboy boots on eBay and lined the store with them. But at the same time, Honeyman does her research.
“You have to figure out what people are going to want to buy this year,” she said. “Before 2008, really, anything would go in terms of price point and how many things people would purchase. Then, things really fell apart and I had to constantly think about what didn’t work and what I think will work this year.”
Honeyman has to keep up on trends — like the infinity scarves that are flying off her shelves — and offer affordable items since customers are spending less money than they used to. The average purchase in her store is about $25.
Most critical to her business, she said, is the holiday shopping season.
“We’re not a tourist town, so we don’t have the strong summer sales that tourist towns have, but we have the strong December. December is what gets us — it gets everyone — through the rest of the year. It’s hard to gamble on this one time period,” she said.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
“When I see all the businesses that have closed, it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s very important that we keep this local economy strong. That strength can’t rest on corporately owned stores.”
Because Heavenly Metal is tucked away on a side street of downtown, Honeyman tries to drive traffic to the store through her website and social media. She has popular “e-blasts” to keep customers updated on her inventory changes and sales.
When she hired a web development team to redesign her website last year, she said it completely re-energized her store.
“You have to have an Internet presence now; you absolutely have to,” she said. “I cannot tell you how much it impacted my customers.”
Ten years later, Heavenly Metal is still dear to Honeyman’s heart — it’s not only how she makes a living, but she acknowledges the many friendships it has brought her. And even after spending 10 hours or more each day working, Honeyman is still passionate about being a small business owner.
"People coming here energizes me...it reinforces what I'm doing," she said.
And another decade from now, Honeyman envisions selling the business to someone equally as passionate about it.
“As the economy slowly gets better, with the knowledge that it won’t go back to the way it was, my hope is that the business will have its own vitality and hopefully, in 10 years, somebody will say, ‘God, I love this, I want to buy your business.’ That’s my hope,” she said.