Perception Matters

Establishing the proper message and creating the right perception of your organization is crucial to developing and maintaining a positive relationship with a community. Joey’s Mini Mart, a small corner store located in a quiet, pleasant neighborhood in Scottsville, New York, a couple miles away from the Rochester Institute of Technology, opened for business less than three years ago. Joey’s Mini Mart is submerged in the middle of a neighborhood, prohibiting the store from being able to put in gas pumps. Additionally, the store faced heavy competition from well-established covenant stores in the area that have gas pumps. These two facts concerned the young owner, Joe Valvano, but did not deter him from opening. The mini mart was just the beginning of his plan. The ultimate goal was to open up a liquor store. Considering the close proximity of a university, the idea of a liquor store seemed to be a very profitable entity, but being located in a family neighborhood presented an obstacle.

Joe needed to create an image that would allow him to maintain a steady flow of business as well as promote the opening of his liquor store with little backlash or resistance from the surrounding community, a venture that often leads to negative reactions. To accomplish this, Valvano decided to embed himself in the neighborhood and become a part of the people of Scottsville’s everyday lives. His main objective became to create a welcoming experience for customers, greeting them with a smile and engaging them in conversations about their lives and their families. He created the perception that he cared, and he really did. In fact, he knew more about his customers than just their names and what they bought, he knew about their lives because they felt comfortable sharing with him. Valvano also gave back to the community, sponsoring children’s soccer and hockey teams. Joe had effectively painted himself as a prominent member of the town of Scottsville, granting him regular business and notoriety among the neighborhood.

When it came time to open the liquor store, Father and Son Wine and Spirits, Joe was already a staple within the community. Inhabitants of the neighborhood wanted to see him succeed because they felt like he was one of them. Because of this, no one minded a liquor store in their backyard. After all that Joe had done for the community, how could they?

The identity that Joe was able to create for his mini mart directly lead to his ability to construct a business that can sometimes be perceived as deviant or sinful, without any negative reaction from those who live nearby. His simple plan of involving himself in the community has allowed Joe to maintain a strong relationship with his customers and expand his business into the future.

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Evan Galusha

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