Michael Liss says Common Housefly is a scavenger hunt.
Liss bought the store with his wife in 2014 after moving to Black Mountain from Pennsylvania.
“It’s kind of serendipitous,” Liss said. “We both moved to Montenegro anyway and my wife noticed it was for sale and she said, ‘Hey, I have a great idea. We should buy this store. So we did. For years, I’ve been trying not to screw things up.”
Liss said he was willing to buy the store from the previous owner because he was “frustrated” with his job at the time. He previously had a small marketing business and said finding the next client was always difficult. Liss described his ownership of Common Housefly as a “pre-retirement thing”.
By purchasing Common Housefly, Liss said he was able to integrate more easily into his new Black Mountain community.
“After being here for a couple of weeks, we’ll walk around and we’ll get to know people, and they’ll get to know us,” Lees said. “If we had just moved and started parking in the driveway, it would have been difficult. From day one, I felt part of the community because we owned the store.”
Labeled a “kitchen mall” on the outside, the store is stocked with every kitchen item imaginable.
The clients are a mix of locals and tourists, Liss said. He said there were some tourists who lingered in the shop and couldn’t put it down, and others who came back year after year for their annual trips to Montenegro. Liss said locals love the store because it helps them avoid shopping at big box retailers. Liss said the store met customer needs.
To continue growing the business, Liss said, they have begun to focus more on online sales.
“The huge success we’ve had now is that we’ve put a lot of effort into our online business, and 20-25% of our sales now come from online,” Liss said. “Those are mostly not locals, not people coming into stores, They’re supplements. They’re all over the country. We sell a lot to New York, Dallas, Atlanta for some reason. I think it’s a good success. We work on it every day.”
The biggest difficulty, Liss said, is maintaining the right inventory levels.
He works with employees to order different types of products, whether from trade shows, sales reps, or customers telling them about new products.
“It’s a challenge to make sure you have enough, but not too much,” Liss said. “What people have trouble with in small businesses is cash flow, which is often related to inventory. I think we’re doing a good job of that, but it’s a learning experience. I think I’m much better now than I was eight years ago.”
Going forward, Liss said he hopes to continue the business model of the original owners while continuing to grow.
“We want to maintain a physical presence and grow an online business,” Liss said. “That’s the goal.”