We all hold a special place in our heart for a little neighbourhood shop. It’s easy to recognize it: it’s the one where you are greeted by your name and with a smile. It’s the corner bookstore, the village newsagent, the local coffee place. Somehow, the sign on its shop window can never fully convey the full range of services that such a place offers – which often includes a chat and a bit of gossip. Whether it’s based in the suburbs of a metropolis or in the heart of a country village, this kind of shop is immediately recognizable as a landmark for the local community.
Teresa store in Chiuduno, a village just short of 6,000 inhabitants in the Bergamo area, is one of these special places that hides a soul and a story behind their shop window – one that balances tradition with innovation.
Mrs. Teresa’s pushcart
Andrea Locatelli and his sister Chiara took over the shop when the original owner, Mrs. Teresa, retired after 60 years behind the counter. “She had managed the shop, just outside the church, since the 50’s,” says Andrea,. “At that time, the shop sold a bit of everything, from toys to socks to lightbulbs. Teresa also owned a news kiosk, and she was always ready to satisfy any requests from customers.” She also added an extra touch: “On Sundays, no matter the weather, Teresa would set up a wooden pushcart loaded with sweets and candy in the square,” he continues. “When she grew older and pushing the cart became too tiresome, she would ask the village kids for help. For them, it meant free candy!” Andrea smiles. “Teresa’s business was her whole life, and it was also a piece of Chiuduno’s history.”
Andrea and Chiara’s challenge was to pick up Teresa’s baton and keep a community icon alive. “When Mrs. Teresa’s son decided to sell the shop, my family immediately stepped forward.” To begin with, they chose to maintain the original name of the business: “It’s a sort of homage to the founder,” they explain. “And we already knew that everybody would have kept using the old name anyway, and we were absolutely fine with the idea,” says Andrea with a laugh.
Blending tradition and innovation
The siblings restored the shop and expanded the product selection: “We chose peculiar gadgets, objects that would attract attention, and we tried to understand the needs of our customers.” They added gift ideas for birthdays and weddings and party decorations to the standard newspaper, stationery and consumables offer. True to the founder’s ‘all-rounder’ vocation, Andrea set out to modernizing the services offered by the shop: “We can top up mobile credits, scan, print out and fax documents, bind and cover school books,” he says. “Customers have my mobile number, so they can ask me to print a file. For a small business like ours, keeping up with technology is essential to remain relevant.”
From meet up point to pick up point with Counter
Amazon, in collaboration with Fermo!Point’s network, has brought a wave of novelty to the shop. Teresa, which is part of the Fermo!Point network of local stores across Italy, has now joined the Counter programme, allowing Amazon customers to select the shop as a pick up point for their orders. The process, which is based on a technology developed by Amazon, is simple and secure: when a customer orders from Amazon, they can select one of the shops participating in the programme as an alternative pick up point to their home address – for instance, they can select Teresa’s shop. After the customer’s parcel arrives at the shop, they receive a mobile notification with a code: this will allow them to identify their order in an easy and quick way. From that moment on, the customer can pick up the order by showing the code at the shop. In Italy, the service is available at shops affiliated to the Fermo!Point network, and also at Giunti bookstores and Sisal centres exhibiting the Amazon Hub Counter mark. More partners will be added overtime.
“Counter is convenient for all parties involved,” says Andrea. “For customers that can’t be available at home all the time they can choose to lean on somebody they trust, and come pick up their orders whenever they want, with the peace of mind of using a safe service. For us it’s an advantage, too: in addition to the satisfaction of offering one more, intuitive service to our customers, it is an opportunity to increase the flux of customers coming into our shop. Besides picking up their parcels, these customers can stop, have a chat and buy their newspaper, some chewing gums or a small gift.” For Teresa, it’s also a way to strengthen its role as a community landmark.
The key: positivity
After over 60 years from its opening, what is the secret of Teresa’s success? According to Andrea, the key is to always be at the customer’s service with empathy: “What matters is to avoid fossilizing,” he explains. “You have to look around and try to understand how customer needs are changing. And find new ways to respond. Also – always smile, always. Customers are happier to come back to a positive place. We love being in contact with people, being part of their lives: when customers come to see us they relax, as if we were family. For us, it’s the best job in the world.”