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COVID Update #3 - Reopening Info!

Well friends, pandemic summer (#1?) is coming to an end, and I promised you a shop update. I said I’d reopen when school starts, but then school didn’t start on time, and then luckily my son’s school ended up offering a virtual option for the semester, which I took because, well… I can. As much as I wanted him to be able to go back to school and be with his friends and learn from actual teachers, I also feel I need to do my part to keep him safe and slow community spread. (According to the data it is not safe for kids in Oklahoma County to be in in-person school right now.) I started this business because I wanted to be there for my kid, and it’s a blessing and a privilege to be at a point in my life where I can step up and answer the call. That being said, this SUCKS. Right? It’s been six months, and not only have we not contained the virus, but there’s no end in sight - especially not here in Oklahoma, where new case counts are just as high as ever and people continue to resist social distancing and common sense safety precautions every step of the way. But whatever… life goes on whether you’re in denial about the fact that there’s a novel, highly contagious and deadly virus floating through droplets in the air or not. 

All summer I debated - do I reopen or no? I don’t need to. If it's not broken, why fix it? Why risk it? The past six months have proven that my business does not rely on having a physical retail space whatsoever. It also proved that the products I make - even (especially?) the perfumes - are wanted and necessary, even during a time of crisis. I now trust that my business is solid in a way I didn’t know AT ALL during the first 4 years. I guess I finally figured out that I’m always getting better and smarter at what I do, so maybe I don’t need to worry quite so much, you know? Lately I’ve also become accustomed to having a flexible schedule and not having to be anywhere at any certain time. In hindsight, now that I’ve had some sleep, I can see just how crazy and kind of awful my “normal” pre-pandemic schedule was, and the space I gave myself away from work this summer has changed so much for me personally. I’m learning how to rest for the first time, ever. (EVER!) I’m learning how to give myself a little grace. I’m standing up for myself like crazy. I’m even, like, nice to myself when I talk to myself inside my head or write in my journal. It’s like there’s a whole different person up in there!

As much as I love my little shop, I’ve also been a tiny bit trapped by my brick and mortar. Just ever so slightly imprisoned... 🙃 I guess ideally a retail store’s sales justify the hiring of employees to work the shop hours, and I guess that’s the track I saw myself on when I opened my first retail space in 2017, but it turns out that the local, in-person traffic has never been high enough to support that expense. As much as I appreciate (ADORE!) my local shoppers, the truth is that my website sales have always been my bread and butter, and now I know that my local customers can also shop online just as well.

It also turns out that I really like working by myself and am content with what my business provides for me as is. Never mind that we’re in a pandemic (with, again, no end in sight!) and I don’t really want to take a pay cut to bring on low wage workers without being able to offer health benefits or paid sick leave just to potentially expose them to COVID and then be faced with having to lay them off if we have to go back to sheltering in place because hospitals are overloaded this winter. I happen to have higher standards than that. (No offense to every other retail store on the planet, and sorry to everyone who has emailed me to ask if I’m hiring. Not yet! Probably not until COVID is way behind us!) 

Even now, as I write this, having decided to open next week, there’s a voice in my head saying, “Girl… you don’t have to do this! You started an internet based business 5 years ago and did NOT sign up to work in the service industry during a pandemic… especially not in a red state during Trump’s reelection year!” And that nice new lady is right. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. (Besides my taxes, of course.) Am I reopening my shop because I really want to, or because I’m trying to please my local customers who don’t want to deal with shipping and “have” to smell things in person before they buy? Or, am I opening because according to the reports I just ran, I estimate that offering local pickup will save me about $5k in shipping costs through the end of the year? What do I really want? (Besides the governor to not be so far up Trump's butt that he refuses to impose a state-wide mask mandate?) I can keep debating and thinking about this forever, but there doesn't seem to be a clear, right answer.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to compromise. With teeny tiny baby shop hours in a highly controlled, neat freak environment.

Starting on September 22nd, I’m going to be open 12 pm -2 pm, Tuesdays - Saturdays.

Before you balk at these hours, I need you to understand that I’ve given this a lot of thought, and this is the absolute best I can offer. And no, I’m not offering private shopping appointments or online order pickup outside of this schedule. If it doesn’t work for you, just keep shopping online and having your orders shipped!

Here’s the deal: I can’t guarantee that I can get to my shop before 11:30 because I play teacher in the mornings and we finish when we finish. In the past, I could do other work and continue to make things while people browsed, but now I can’t have everyone picking up the tester bottles and holding them up to their noses all willy-nilly. I have to be available to facilitate the handling of testers and sanitizing everything between customers. If I’m open all day for people to come and go as they please, how will I get my other work done? (Also, the really big question: when am I going to eat lunch? Still working on that one... 🤔)

Why 12-2? (Sorry, but I have to explain all of this because I know that if I don’t, my inbox will be flooded with people asking… now when they ask I can send them this handy link. Hi! 👋) 12-2 is because when I was open, the majority of my in-person sales happened between the hours of 11-2 pm. Y’all are running by on your lunch hour and that’s about it, really. I need Mondays off to catch up on weekend orders. I debated whether or not I should be open on Saturdays because they were my slowest days in the shop last year, but I decided to go for it because I’m usually here working anyway, and it’s not like I’ve got big plans to travel right now. If Saturdays end up not being busy and not working for me, I will leave them out.

If any of this doesn’t work for me, I will shut it down. If anyone gives me grief about wearing a mask or doesn’t wear it correctly, or doesn’t follow my rules in my space, it’s done. If I notice that the COVID data worsens in Oklahoma County, I will shut down when I feel it’s necessary, no matter what the mayor or the governor decrees (or doesn’t, Stitt.) Just like the nice lady in my head is telling me, I can do whatever I feel is right with my own business. I can go back to being an online shop at any time, which was my original plan for my brand anyway so no harm no foul!

twinkle apothecary okc

So, what are my rules for my space? I’m glad you asked!

(See the "visit" page for a condensed list!)

1. Mask required. Obviously! And it must cover your nose and mouth at all times. OBVIOUSLY.

2. Sanitize your hands with the sanitizer I provide (don’t worry I make it so you know it’s organic and lovely) when you enter or before touching anything.

3. Only two customers in the shop at a time. The retail portion of my studio is about 12’x9’ - I feel I’m being very generous by allowing two guests in at a time + myself. (Plus my kid who will be in the back with his mask on!) Weather permitting, I will have the door open from 12-2 for better airflow. Please wait outside if you walk up and see that there’s more than one other customer in the shop. 

4. All perfume, makeup, skincare, haircare, and body care testers are behind the counter. I am the only person allowed behind the counter, but I am happy to hand you test strips or spatulas of anything you want to try. Just ask! Rather, I will probably be asking you what kind of perfume you like and forcing test strips on you. 😈 I will also be sanitizing every surface and bottle in my shop with a UV wand before and after opening or between guests if there’s time.

5. No refills. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I just don’t feel that it’s safe. Remember how I got a nasty flu in February from a refill customer and had to shut down for a week? Lesson learned! I have biodegradable refill bags of all of the dry products ready to go for you, but you’ll have to buy new bottles of the liquid products. Your old, clean, glass bottles can be put in my recycling bin here at the shop. 

6. No making it while you wait. In the past, if I was out of something I would usually offer to make it for you while you wait. Now, if I’m out of something, I can offer to ring you up for it while you’re here and either ship it to you when it’s ready or you can come back to pick up next day. Or, you can always order it online beforehand and select store pickup to be sure you get exactly what you want when you come in!   

7. Online order pickup: Orders placed before 3 pm on Mondays - Fridays will be available for pickup next day. Orders placed after 3 on Mondays - Thursdays will be available on the second day. (See the "visit" page for a condensed version of these rules and a detailed chart that will tell you exactly when your order will be ready!) Orders placed after 3 pm on Fridays or anytime on Saturdays and Sundays will be available for pickup on Tuesdays. If you don’t hear from me it means I’ve got your order ready and you can come on by. If you do hear from me, it’s because you’ve ordered something that I won’t have in stock by next (or second) day and I’ll email to let you know when it’ll be ready. (This will mostly only be the case for retired fragrances or perfume junkie scents that I don’t have in stock, but, just FYI!) 

8. No curbside delivery. I’ll be inside wo-manning the shop and helping customers from 12-2 so you’ll have to put your mask on and come in to pick up your online order. If you read the directions above (and on the visit page) it’ll be ready to go for you on the counter!

9. No more BYOBag - sorry! Before I closed my shop in March I was going bagless and urging everyone to bring reusable shopping bags from home. Now I’m back to stocking recycled paper bags and I’m asking you to use them instead to prevent unnecessary germ spreading. Things change, y'all. Be sure to toss it in the recycling or reuse it!

10. Kidding! It just kind of bothered me that this list ended on an odd number.

So let’s see how this goes! I’m excited (and a little nervous) to end my hermit period and get on with the next stage of pandemic life. I think?! (Please be cool about wearing your mask and don't ruin it for everyone??) 😅

See you soon, OKC! 

- Stefanie -