BEDFORD - While shoppers chasing Black Friday deals endured traffic, crowds and noise, customers visiting Impeccable Nest entered an environment soothing enough for a sleeping baby.
Well, in theory anyway. Early Friday afternoon, Prudence Paradis wasn't sleeping, but the 8-month-old cooed contentedly in her playpen behind the counter of the interior design store at the Bedford Village Shoppes while her dad kept watch.
Tim Paradis, who works for Baldwin & Clarke, a wealth management company nearby, doesn't usually run the store. But Prudence spends her days there with her mom, Emma Carole Paradis, who opened the 700-square-foot boutique in June. Paradis balances her retail business with interior design work - like the project at Bedford Village Inn's Cork Wine Bar that kept her away on Friday.
"I've never worked harder in my life, between balancing motherhood as well as being an entrepreneur," Paradis said. "It's not bad. I just never worked this hard."
And with the Christmas season underway, that's not likely to change any time soon.
The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 3.9 percent this year. For new retailers like Paradis, that doesn't mean much as she works on establishing a niche in the community.
On Saturday, Paradis offered customers a 10 percent discount to celebrate Small Business Saturday, a nationwide effort to promote independent stores. That's as close as she'll come to the price-slashing of her big-box competitors.
"It's very hard being a small businesses to compete with the larger chain stores and retailers on Black Friday," said Paradis, 33, a former school teacher.
She has attended trade shows in New York and North Carolina to meet with vendors and make sure she's ordering the right products for her local market. The latest in home trends right now, she said, is a focus on natural materials such as rattan and bamboo, accented by high-gloss lacquers and bright colors.
"I'm an interior designer, and I personally have an eclectic aesthetic," she said. "I just realized there is a need for unique home accessories in this market, and that was something I was really focused on bringing both as a consumer and to my design clients."
Traffic has been steady since the store opened at the Route 101 shopping center, with customers buying small items returning to purchase higher-ticket products, said Paradis, who got the keys to her shop about a month before giving birth to her daughter in March.
"Commercial space is at a premium in Bedford so I was really lucky to find the space that I have, and something that was in my own personal price range," she said.
In addition to operating the store, working with design clients and taking care of Prudence, Paradis also is squeezing in time at night to take classes so she can earn a certificate in interior design.
Her husband awaits the day when she can afford to hire some employees to relieve her as the business grows.
"She's definitely at a point where she's so busy where she can't be two places at once, a la today. It's a challenge that all small business owners face, that middle ground," said Tim Paradis, who works with small business owners as part of his wealth management work. "She's in that six- to nine-month phase. If she continues on this path, then we're going to hire somebody."
While Emma Paradis said she was expecting her new business to require a 24/7 level of dedication, living it has been something else entirely.
"It's been a lot of fun but a crazy ride," she said. "And I've loved every single minute of it."
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.