Opening up a small business in NYC isn’t easy, we all know that right? But I never imagined what it would really be like until I sat down with Lee of Stieber’s Sweet Shoppe to learn about what it took to get the store up and running.

Lee moved to NYC in 2007 after falling in love with Manhattan during a summer in college when she interned here. She was in the commercial production industry for about 6 years, but knew it wasn’t what she wanted to do the rest of her life. When her aunt and uncle opened a successful candy store in California she sought to bring a location to the city.  In 2013 Lee’s very bumpy journey to the opening of Stieber’s began.  Here are the highs and the lows of opening a small business with little experience, and what Lee says she would do differently.

The Lease is Key to Small Business in NYC

Lease negotiations are one of the things that Lee says she would change about the past. Her lawyer and the landlord’s lawyer would go back and forth during the negotiations.  Yet, as Lee was just excited to move forward with the shop, she ended up conceding on many of the points, which she now wishes she had fought harder for. However, Lee also knows that her landlord was taking a huge risk on her as well. Although Stieber’s already had a first location in California, Lee didn’t have much to show beyond that, she had no experience in the industry or even retail in general. In November of 2013 Lee signed the lease on the 195 Bleeker St location.

Looking back Lee said she wished she had worked as the General contractor and hired subcontractors herself.  She ran into numerous issues with her General Contractor who tried to bully her consistently into paying him more money and changing her plans. When you want something done the right way, sometimes you really are the only person for the job. Lee says she is still getting phone calls from subcontractors telling her that they were never paid by the contractor.

Small Business in NYC

Everybody needs Somebody

One of the biggest game changers for Lee has been hiring a small business lawyer. Lee commented that it was hard opening her first small business in NYC alone, having to play both the good cop and the bad cop at once.  More importantly it’s the wearing of all the hats that can be so trying.  Lee had to be a supervisor to the store construction, a boss to her staff, a customer to her vendors, a tenant to her landlord and, most importantly, a merchant to her own customers.  It is a lot of different roles to play and Lee said that her small business lawyer was a big part in helping her navigate many issues that arose.

Despite all of the road blocks, the support of her family and friends, and the random kindness of strangers were also some of the major pushing forces that led to the opening of Stieber’s. When the first shipment of candy arrived to Stieber’s, Lee was dumbfounded as 4 pallets of candy boxes, left on the sidewalk, needed to get into her basement. Helping hands from her neighbors got her out of that one. Lee advises that if you can’t afford a therapist make sure you have some good people to lean on.

Look around Stieber’s Sweet Shoppe and you’ll be looking at all designs by Lee herself. And in some cases, hand attached into the walls by her as well. Of course, beyond this there are more and more crazy stories about the opening of Stieber’s. Go in and ask Lee about the flooding in the basement or her struggles with landmark issues. Lee says she is happy to give anyone advice on opening a small business. It seems like in the year and half since she first signed the lease she had hit almost all the bumps in the road there are to hit.  Although Lee might not be the “bad cop” she is a Betty Crocker bad-ass in her own way. She has taken on the task of opening a small candy store with the odds against her and is doing candy in a way that is different than all the other places.

Small Business in NYC Small Business in NYC

The folks at Eat Up New York are big fans of Small Businesses in NYC.  It take a lot of guts and elbow grease to get a small businesses off the ground especially in New York City.  Do you have a story about your business that you would like to share?  Email is at social@eatupnewyork.com and let us know your story.

And most importantly – Don’t forget to get out there and support our small businesses in NYC. People often complain about the fading New York and the big box stores – Well if you don’t support small business in NYC then they can’t survive.  And I am sure you need fudge right now…so get up, put pants on, and go visit Lee at Stieber’s!

Small Business in NYC

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About The Author

Profile photo of Meredith
Sustainable Eater

As a former athlete with an intense competitive nature I like to challenge my cooking skills with new recipes and unfamiliar ingredients. I source local and organic ingredients as much as possible. I’m on a mission to conquer the kitchen