Soooooo.... it's March. Twenty twenty one. And we're still in this pandemic. And it's AWFUL. I won't ask how you're doing. I know it's like this Broad City meme for all of us at this point:
(Unless you're one of those people out there attending/planning events and parties and posing with your mask-less friends for instagram like everything is back to normal. Yeah, I see you. No, I do not "like.")
Anyway! I'm writing this because I realize that I have to make some decisions about what to do with my brick & mortar shop and I honestly don't know what I want to do.
Originally, I thought that once cases had died down and the weather was warm enough to keep my door open that I would reopen with somewhat normal hours. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I would only be opening in that capacity because I feel like I have to.
Because the 12-2 pm hours that worked for me in the fall didn't work for you. Because there are a lot of local shoppers who don't/won't look at or shop on my website. They don't open or read my emails, they don't follow me on social media, they don't read my blogs, they don't check my posted hours on my google listing before coming by, they most likely doesn't even know that I've been closed since Christmas. Some of them don't even know that I moved locations in 2019! Basically, my local, in-person only shoppers are my most fair weather fans. (Don't worry, if you are reading this I'm not talking about you!) But also, all local shopping is literally fair weather, because no one shops if it's too cold, rainy, too hot, or even too pretty out, so... yeah.
Obviously I do still want (and need!) my fair weather business, but the question is - is it really worth rearranging my entire life and schedule (my son and I are still slogging through virtual school, by the way,) just to have my shop open for people to come and go at their leisure? And I would have, what? No leisure?
Obviously I also know that many of my most loyal customers who have been so great about shopping online for the past year would love to shop in-person too...
And it's not that I don't miss you or want to see you! I love having my shop open and sharing my products with you in person. I hope you know that!
I just think, there has to be a better way to do this without sacrificing the oh-so-precious work/life balance that I've developed and come to cherish over the past year. When will I schedule dentist/doctor appointments? When will I have friends? (You know, aside from my customers, and socially distantly until after the pandemic of course!) And what about when I send my son to school again in the fall (please, god?!) will I be closing to go pick him up in the afternoons and having to run right back to reopen for shoppers? What about his (future) extracurricular activities?!
The one bright side of this pandemic is that I now have an opportunity to re-design this whole thing so why would I slide back into an old routine that didn't work all that well in the first place?
The truth is, I just really don't know that traditional brick and mortar works anymore. Not for me, at least...
I know that sounds dramatic. I don't think it's a sad thing. It just is what it is. We've seen this coming for a long time. It might sound counterintuitive, but I think I could actually do more with my business if I didn't have to make myself available for local shoppers all day.
And if you're wondering why I don't expand and hire an employee to run my shop while I enjoy my newfound work life balance, well, it's because
there isn't enough money coming in for me to do that!
I'm very lucky and very grateful that this business covers all of my life expenses and supports my little family. However, I am not at a place in my life (almost 40 with 10 years left to figure out how to pay for college) where I can take the financial risk to expand or hire with no guarantee that the risk will pay off. I'd love to be eternally optimistic and go for it - expand into a larger space and hire a staff - but this isn't my first rodeo. I've worked in retail for over 2 decades and I've never seen anyone doing it comfortably, unless they are independently wealthy or have a partner/spouse to cover living expenses. I am not. I am a single parent. No one picks up my slack or bails me out when I'm in over my head. And that's just the way I like it. A small business that simply pays for my life has always been the goal. It is valid and fine to stay small and to forge a path that works for ME. (I hereby dub myself the queen of the recovering people pleasers. Bow down!)
Also, let's not forget that I was in a traditional brick and mortar set up from 2017-2019 when I shared a space with another brand and it didn't work. There was barely enough traffic for me to cover my portion of the payroll, (because of the streetcar construction downtown, remember that? There's always an excuse...) Not to mention that none of my customers (probably, yes, even some of you reading this!) wanted to talk to the employees that I was paying - you only wanted to talk to me.
This is why I downsized into my current location - to save money and to save myself from having to run up and down the stairs and away from my workspace to answer every single question from my local shoppers.
But do I have to chain myself to this set up for all of eternity?
(Ok, yes, that one was definitely over dramatic, sorry!)
On one hand: this business was always meant to be e-commerce based. The website has always been the main focus and my main source of revenue.
On the other hand: I wouldn't be here without the support of my local community.
On my other, other hand: I know I can't please everyone anyway.
So what's the compromise?
Here's what I'm thinking: I'll open my shop to the public every other Saturday.
We can call them, Open Studio Saturdays, perhaps?
I know, I know, that that won't work for everyone.
(Order pickup will still be available from 1 - 6 pm Mondays - Saturdays.)
I've thought about one Saturday and one Sunday per month. Or even one Thursday, one Friday, one Saturday, and one Sunday per month, but that all sounds so confusing! Remember - my local in-person-only shoppers don't bother to stay up to date like those of you reading this. I would practically have to rent billboard space all over town to reach them. Then they would probably still show up on the wrong day time, and be like, "So, can I come in and look around?" LOL. No. It doesn't work that way...
So, I'm going to tentatively say that I'll be open every other Saturday in March, but I want your feedback! I want to know:
1. Are you comfortable shopping in person, currently?
If not, 1a. when do you expect to be going out into the world again?
2. What days/times do you shop?
3. If you're someone who feels like they can't order certain things online (even knowing that I recommend ordering perfume samples to try on over smelling them from the bottles in my shop,) why?
3a. Is there anything I can do or provide to change your mind or make it easier?
4. If I were to hire an employee - what would it take for you to trust them enough to ask them the questions that you have for me?
Or, 4a. is it that you just want to shop in-person because it's cool to be able to buy directly from/speak to me, the maker?
These questions might sound totally silly, but despite my reign as the queen of the recovering people pleasers, I do care about what you think, so help me, help you! (I am especially curious about #3 & 4...)
Feel free to leave a comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
As for March, 2021, I will be open on this Saturday, March 6th, from 11 am - 5 pm for the Make Ready Market:
And then I guess again on March 20th for an Open Studio Saturday!
Let's say from 1 - 6 pm to keep it consistent with my available hours for local pickup. If those times don't work for you but you would like to come by on Saturdays, please let me know. This is all tentative, so make your voice heard.
Also, don't forget to check my "visit" page for my in-store shopping COVID protocol.
Oh, and PS - this month's coupon code is CORONAVERSARY for 15% off orders $55+ (Just tell me you want to partake in this month's discount if you're shopping in person - I don't advertise these discounts to my fair weather fans!)
And if you've read this far, GOD BLESS YOU. What would I do without you?!
See you Saturday!
- Stefanie -