Earlier this year, GOBankingRates asked our readers to nominate their favorite small businesses across the U.S., and we were inundated with nominations for restaurants, coffee shops, Etsy shops, arcades and more.
Bakester’s Pastries in Willcox, Arizona
Bakester’s Pastries is a bakery-slash-deli-style sandwich shop that serves up sandwiches on fresh-made bread, as well as cinnamon rolls, cookies, and biscuits and gravy.
“It’s actually a childhood dream of mine to have my own restaurant,” owner Leigha Burris told GOBankingRates.
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Blue Mountain Coffee in West Palm Beach, Florida
Blue Mountain Coffee traces its roots to St. Andrew, Jamaica, where founder Allison Boettcher was born and raised. Inspired by the rich cacao and Caribbean fruits of her hometown, she set about harvesting and roasting coffee beans from the Blue Mountain on her family’s estate. Boettcher now serves her own private Blue Mountain Coffee label at her shop, alongside classic food options like pancakes, sandwiches, salad and pastries, as well as Jamaican dishes like ackee and saltfish and curry chicken.
“Never go in business for only the money, or else it will become an empty dream chasing after a wad of papers,” she said. “Instead, enjoy the journey of choice as you work towards achieving your goals.”
Bradley Bake Shop in Bogota, New Jersey
Bradley Bake Shop specializes in gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and keto treats, from gluten-free sea salt brownies to keto-friendly carrot cake. Owner Eleanor Bradley opened her shop in Bogota, New Jersey, in 2016 after the cookies she baked for her gluten-free husband turned out to be a hit with the locals. When she first opened the business, she was also working as a teacher, but eventually quit her job to focus on the bakery full time.
“The most rewarding aspect is being my own boss, calling my own shots, and watching the business grow from literally nothing to the point where people come in,” Bradley said. “Just last week a couple of people came in telling us that they were recommended by friends or family members. That makes me feel good, because I put everything into what I do.”
Brunch Snob in Phoenix
Brunch Snob is a breakfast restaurant owned by husband and wife team Keith and Celene Hillsbery that serves “comfort food with a twist.” As Celene puts it, “We don’t just serve your typical breakfast. To be honest, nothing we do is typical.”
“We’re just so blown away by how busy we are and how crazy people are about the restaurant — the inside of the restaurant, how cute it is and how good the food is,” Celene said. “More than once we’ve said to each other, ‘Did you ever think we’d be this busy?’ We both said, ‘No way.’ We never thought we would be this busy.”
Doo’s Amazing Tours in St. Petersburg, Florida
Doo’s Amazing Tours is a woman-owned tour company that offers a variety of guided tours via paddle boards, Segways and bikes that focus on the local history, flora and fauna of St. Petersburg, Florida. Owner Louisa Scopacasa opened the business in 2012, and it has gone on to receive numerous local and national awards, including a 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award from Tripadvisor.
“The best part of being a business owner is knowing that I had a memorable impact on the customer’s vacation,” Scopacasa said. “I love to hear customers tell me that the tour they did with me was the highlight of their vacation. I also like to believe that I have inspired young females to pursue their own passions, and perhaps open up their own businesses.”
Far Out Arcade in Manhattan, Kansas
Every Thursday through Sunday, visitors to the Far Out Arcade can spend the night playing retro video arcade games. The arcade is owned by Scott Anderson, who has been a Manhattan, Kansas, resident for 20 years and has been running Far Out Arcade for two years.
“We serve the whole community through affordability, location and compassion,” Anderson said. “In truth, Far Out Arcade has become its own community within the community. When unpredictable circumstances lead to me not being able to be present in May, volunteers stepped up and hosted on my behalf.”
Happily Handcrafted By Anna & Julianna in Chicago
Happily Handcrafted By Anna & Julianna is an Etsy shop run by mother-daughter team Anna and Julianna Babin. The idea stemmed from Julianna’s love of crafts. The duo originally sold at local crafts fairs, and decided to open an Etsy shop to expand their customer base. Their shop features polymer clay creations, decoupage decor, ribbon bookmarks and more.
“We really enjoy interacting with our customers and describing the stories and the process behind our work,” they said. “Now that we are on Etsy, we still continue to engage with our audience on social media and love receiving feedback and ideas for what our customers would like us to make next.”
Litwickscandle in Miramar, Florida
Tracy Welsh started Litwickscandle because of her own love of candles. She was inspired to start making her own during the pandemic, and now sells candles and more products made from 100% natural ingredients.
“I used to shop a lot at Bath & Body Works. When COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t go to the stores anymore, I had to figure out how I was going to get my supply of candles,” she said. “The lightbulb went off, but only after I realized how much I was spending on candles! I decided to look into making candles myself and Litwickscandle was born.”
Naughty Pine Brewing Company in Westlake Village, California
Naughty Pine Brewing Company is known for its 1920s speakeasy vibe. Owner Brittany Brouhard previously co-founded and opened a brewery in Maui almost 10 years ago, and she’s now celebrating the one-year anniversary of her new business venture.
“My inspiration stems from a lot of places — other brewery owners that I have developed friendships with over the years, my husband and his family, all of who are small business owners, and friends that took the same leap I ended up taking in 2020,” Brouhard said. “And my daughter. My daughter was a major inspiration and factor in this decision.
“Going out on my own means being able to pivot at any moment if my daughter needs me at home, has a field trip or a dance recital,” she continued. “It also means building a place to call our own, be like a second home for her, being a role model for her as a mom and business owner, and providing a space that maybe she will take over someday.”
Psychic Teaz in Maple Falls, Washington
The origin of Psychic Teaz dates back several decades, when co-owner Susan Lautner’s husband, Daniel Muffoletto, created a unique signature tea designed to help musicians stay mentally alert and physically balanced while on tour. This tea became one of four flavors that make up the Psychic Teaz brand. The company is now on a mission to help people everywhere “heal and feel better.”
“I place great importance in helping people,” Lautner said. “This is my inspiration and why I hope to reach millions.”
A Separate Reality Records in Cleveland
A Separate Reality Records, a record store in Cleveland started by music industry vet and cancer survivor Augustus Payne, was nominated for the second time this year.
“It’s an amazing feeling when people genuinely love the records you’re selling,” Payne said. “This is not only a business for me but a true labor of love.”
SK Butterflies in Miami
Kiki Sylvain has spent the last decade breeding butterflies at her company SK Butterflies. The company originated when she found a deceased butterfly on the floor of her greenhouse, and her husband, Sedrick, suggested she frame the butterfly. After showing him the finished product, Sedrick declared, “I love it! I would buy that.” The couple saw a potential business opportunity in Kiki’s newfound hobby and decided to start SK Butterflies. In addition to breeding butterflies, the company sells jewelry and home décor that uses recycled butterfly wings.
“Breeding butterflies, although fun, can be challenging,” Sylvain said. “I must make sure outside predators are not hurting the butterflies. I try my best to ensure their survival rate is maximized. They all deserve to live a fulfilling life.”
Smokin J’s BBQ in Poway, California
This barbecue spot was founded by Joshua George, his brother, Jeremy George, and Jeremy’s wife, Mckenzie George. Smokin J’s BBQ brings slow-smoked barbecue to their community, alongside housemade rubs and sauces. In addition to serving a variety of meats, the San Diego-area restaurant strives to create an environment where every guest who enters feels like they are welcomed like an old friend.
“One of the most rewarding parts of being a small business owner was when it first dawned on us that we had created a business that was not only supporting ourselves, but was supporting the lives and families of multiple employees,” Joshua said. “I still get warm and fuzzy feelings when I think about the fact that we have created a business that is successful enough for us to pay our employees the way we do.”
Source of Coffee in Willcox, Arizona
Source of Coffee is a family-owned coffee house that specializes in espresso crafted from organic coffee roasted in Arizona. Owners Benjamin Morgan and Dana and Debra Suorsa said their cafe has a European feel that encourages visitors to stay a while and play a game of chess or read a book by the fire. Source of Coffee prides itself on actively supporting its local community by hosting free events and bringing in other local businesses for its on-site farmers market.
“Each cup we serve is still just as important as the first one, and the reward is that our community keeps choosing us,” the owners said. “We’re a true coffee house — somewhere that’s a destination rather than your fast-fix, drive-thru shop, and we’re proud of it.”
Sunrise Coffee Shop and Wine Cellar in Madison, Florida
Sunrise Coffee Shop and Wine Cellar is a cafe-slash-restaurant that serves coffee, tea, wine and farm-to-table eats, including sandwiches, soups and salads. The venue also hosts private events, murder mystery dinners, wine tastings and live music. Owner Moruna Sheppard describes her business as “a touch of vintage nostalgia, combining a love of people, antiques, travel, coffee, teas, fine wines, beers, wholesome organic foods and fresh baked goods in a cozy and quaint restaurant lounge.”
“Sunrise is more a ‘garden,’ where all of the seeds of love are sown,” she said. “It’s sprouted such beauty and unexpected friendships, fruitful and bountiful.”
Tigre’s Fuego in Redondo Beach, California
Tigre’s Fuego is a take-out taco and ceviche restaurant that prides itself on using high-quality ingredients and offering authentic, homemade fare. The restaurant is co-owned by brothers Jonathan and Jason Baran, as well as chefs Tyler Gugliotta and Jimmy Tapia.
“Hospitality is like nothing else,” Jonathan said. “I consider a lot of customers good friends, and I never knew them prior to that, so that’s a blessing, for sure.”
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