Adapt. That’s what stores have had to do for nearly two months and now again as they reopen after being closed to in-person sales.
Tina Peffer, owner of All That & More in downtown Georgetown opened her store Wednesday along with many others after retail stores were mandated to close to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in late March.
When Peffer had to close the store, she became depressed, Peffer said. And on top of everything she had just broken her arm, so the pain just kept adding up.
“I was already in pain every single day from the broken arm,” she said. “And then the depression of closing the store and the weight of all the bills that were still there, you know? It was so — I try to keep a more positive outlook but I spent hours crying.”
Peffer says other store owners she spoke with felt the same when they had to close.
“I’ve talked to other store owners up and down the street and they’ve been in various stages of the same level of despondency,” she said.
After retiring from Toyota, Peffer put all of her money into opening her boutique, Peffer said. She doesn’t want to lose all of the work she has put in and she doesn’t see the world going back to normal for quite a while.
“I feel like with things the way they are, they’re going to be this way for a prolonged period of time,” she said. “That if I don’t try to adapt somehow and develop an online presence that is consistent on Facebook, on online platforms, on Instagram, I’m going to end up going out of business. And all of the money that I had gotten from my retirement from working at Toyota is in this store.
“So I would lose everything.”
She has been working to develop an online store for her shop that she hopes to have up and running soon.
“During the time we were closed, just to try and pay regular bills like utilities and things I tried to adapt and do some Facebook Live sales,” Peffer said. “One was fairly successful. Some were not successful at all. Now what I’m doing — and I just invested a lot of money — I am opening up an online store.”
The new technology is overwhelming and just to put a fraction of her merchandise online took a whole day, she said. But she hopes to grow her audience.
Peffer only saw a few customers Wednesday and Thursday when she reopened. There were some “looky-loos,” as she calls them, who walked around looking but not buying. But, a couple of customers came in with the intention of helping a small business make it through this crisis.
“I have had two customers who came in,” she said. “One (Wednesday) and one (Thursday). And the first customer that walked in the door (Wednesday) said to me, ‘I love your store so much that I was determined that as soon as you open I was going to come in and buy a bunch of stuff.’”
The other customer had pleasant words, as well.
“And then (Thursday), again, I had another lady come in and say, ‘I’m shopping small and I’m going to buy something from you just to help you out,’” Peffer said.
Even with some kind words from customers there is still nervousness with how people will respond to in-person shopping.
“Now that we’re opened back up there’s fear and trepidation,” she said. “How busy are we going to be? We’re not going to be busy like we were before, I know we’re not.
Peffer says she will just keep adapting with the changes.
“We’re in fearful time,” she said. “I’m in a time of adaptation. I’m stretching myself in a big way. I’ll just keep bobbing and weaving as I need to, to try and make it work.”
James Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.