How Cole & the Shadyside Chamber create magical #ShopSmall experiences
Updated: May 7
We recently sat down to chat with Cole Wolfson, small business owner and former Executive Board Member of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh. Cole is a strong believer in the power of Main Street and introduced us to Chad Townsend, the owner of Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. Millie's Ice Cream ran a Honeycomb campaign and raised $49,700 from 40 community investors to buy a 1974 Morrison Bedford van, which is now serving sweet scoops in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Let's hear from Cole about how he's taken part in creating magical #ShopSmall experiences right in his local business corridor of Shadyside.
Tell us about what you do in all your different walks of life!
My name is Cole Wolfson. I'm the Senior Program Manager at AlphaLab Gear, an accelerator for early stage physical product startups. In my spare time, I own and operate a chain of natural pet retail stores called Petagogy in Pittsburgh. I’m also the former Executive Board Member of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a member of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce?
The Chamber gives me an opportunity to shape the experience that people have when they come to Shadyside. I feel that that's really important especially with retail, which, as you know, is constantly under threat these days. Creating experiences that bring people to the businesses—and not to just one business, but to an entire district of businesses. For example, I planned the Shadyside Spring Dog Walk and Flea Market event which has actually grown into the big kickoff event in the spring for the Chamber. Catalyzing these changes and events in Shadyside has been really satisfying.
How did you first hear about Honeycomb Credit?
I heard about Honeycomb Credit because they participated in the AlphaLab accelerator. As a member of the AlphaLab & AlphaLab Gear family, I’m intimately familiar with all the companies that come through our doors. I was impressed by Honeycomb’s dedication to Main Street businesses, using financing as a means of growing loyalty within your customer base and accessing pots of money for activities that really drive your business forward. What made you decide to introduce Chad from Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream to Honeycomb Credit?
When Millie's Ice Cream first opened around the corner from my first store in Shadyside, I reached out to them almost immediately. Millie's is the perfect type of business for a Honeycomb campaign. They have a strong brand, they have a product that people love. They have a dedicated user base, and they were clearly getting ready to expand. So it made perfect sense to make that introduction.
As a Chamber member, how do you view your involvement in the community?
The responsibility for us is to do everything we can to help businesses succeed on their own merits and their own strengths, whether that is helping with financing, crowdsourced advertising or promotion, or collaborating on events — any of the activities that you can do to really create an environment in which all businesses are supported.
Why is Main Street important to you?
Main Street is important to me because that's where people are. You can shop online but it's anonymous, it doesn't create a sense of community. It doesn't improve the real environment that you find yourself in. It doesn't allow you to have these magical experiences that you get when you interact with real people, in the real world, in real places.
Is there a local business in your community that provides these magical experiences? Let us know if you'd like to connect them to the financing option that they deserve. Check out our referral program!