On location

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 1/9/2009, 5 p.m.

Popular theory has it that one key to business success is location, location, location. This may be especially true when it comes to retail establishments.

While they acknowledge the truism, two local retail shop owners are operating on a slightly different theory: Location is what you make it.

Janine Jacques, owner of newly opened Soaps & Stuff, and Aminah Muhammad, creator of newly relocated Queen Aminah's Clothing, say it is not necessarily the location but more a matter of what you do in and with the location that can yield success.

Jacques, who handmakes soaps and other body products from shea butter, has since 2003 worked as a vendor around the country selling her soaps and body moisturizers. But after a while, the life-long entrepreneur discovered the limitations of that mode of business.

"I was very excited when I put up my web site, www.soapstuff.net, because I thought it would create additional income. But when people called, they didn't want to make the minimum purchase or pay the shipping and handling," explained the Los Angeles business owner. "So many people are more health conscious, especially with body products . . . and they want to see, feel, and sample, especially if it's handmade. That gives it the personal touch."

Additionally, Jacques realized she needed a distribution location where people could come, after seeing her vendor booth and festivals and other events.

Finally, having her own store had been a long-held desire for the 51-year-old business owner.

After searching three years for a potential site, Jacques said it was definitely divine intervention that led her to the corner of Washington and Rimpau Boulevard in the Mid City area.

The fact that Soaps & Stuff's new home is not exactly a bustling retail corridor a la Melrose Avenue, or even Crenshaw Boulevard, does not dampen Jacques' enthusiasm for her three-week-old retail store.

Muhammad of Queen Aminah's is similarly enthusiastic about her new location.

After four years in business in downtown Inglewood at the corner of Market and Regent streets, Muhammad began to notice some rather alarming trends.

"When they finished the construction on Century Boulevard, a lot of the business that had been coming to Market Street began to leave," explained the business owner, who opened her Inglewood location in April 2003. The Century Boulevard construction included the addition of shopping spots like Michael's and Bed, Bath & Beyond as well as restaurants like Red Lobster and Chili's.

Eventually Muhammad said five stores within half a block of her boutique closed or relocated, including the popular New Orleans restaurant Gumbo Shack, which moved to Prairie across the street from Hollywood Park.

"The first one I saw was Gumbo Shack, and I took note. Then the guy across the street who had a sportswear store moved, and they had three stores. Half a block from me another lady who sold suits closed. And this was all between August and September. It was starting to look like a ghost town. I had to make a business decision," said Muhammad, who did not really want to leave the location she had painstakingly developed.