Spot the Shop: Common Housefly looks to grow online business

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Michael Liss bought Common Housefly with his wife in 2014.

Michael Liss said Common Housefly is a treasure hunt.

Liss bought the store with his wife in 2014 after moving to Black Mountain from Pennsylvania.

“It was kind of a fortuitous thing,” Liss said. “We were moving to Black Mountain anyway, and my wife noticed that this was for sale and she said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea. We should buy this store.’ So we did. I’ve been trying not to mess it up for the past eight years.”

Liss said he was receptive to purchasing the store from its previous owner because he was “frustrated” with his job at the time. He previously had a small marketing business and said it was always a struggle finding the next client. Liss described his ownership of Common Housefly as a “pre-retirement thing.”

By purchasing Common Housefly, Liss said he was able to integrate into his new Black Mountain community easier.

“After a few weeks here, we would walk around and we’d know people and they’d know us,” Liss said. “If we’d just moved and started parking our car in the driveway, it would have been hard to do. I felt a part of the community right from day one because we own the store.”

The store, labeled as a “kitchen emporium” on the outside, is filled with every kitchen item imaginable.

Liss said the clientele is a mix of locals and tourists. He said there are some tourists who wander in and love the store and others who come back year after year during their annual trips to Black Mountain. Liss said locals like the store because it helps them avoid shopping at big box retailers. Liss said the store fills the needs of the customers.

To continue to grow the business, Liss said they have started focusing more on their online sales.

“The big success for us right now is we’re spending a lot of effort on our online presence and we’re creeping up to 20-25% of our sales are online now,” Liss said. “Those are mostly not locals, not people that come in the store, they’re additions. They’re all over the country. We sell a lot to New York for some reason, Dallas, Atlanta. I think it’s a good success. We’re working on it every day.”

Liss said the biggest struggle is maintaining correct levels of inventory.

He works with staff to order different types of product, whether it be from trade shows, sales reps or customers telling them of a new product.

“It’s a challenge to make sure you have enough, but not too much,” Liss said. “Where people get in trouble with small businesses is cash flow, and that’s usually tied up in inventory. I think we’ve done pretty good with that, but it’s been a learning experience. I think I’m better now than I was eight years ago.”

Looking to the future, Liss said he wants to continue the business model as the original owner had it while also growing.

“We want to maintain the physical presence the way it is and grow the online business,” Liss said. “That’s kind of the goal.”