We were scheduled to open for the season April 24th and 25th, 2020. A few weeks before, a few of my staff members cornered me and said, "we need to be here for the community, people are scared right now, they are having a hard time getting what they need, let's open early." You don't need to twist my arm after a presentation like that. By the weekend, our doors were opened - following all guidelines and even making extra efforts for cleaning and sanitizing.
So here is why I believe small businesses, including places like hair salons and gift stores should be able to open and when they get the go ahead to do so, these are the places to frequent:
1) Ability to keep things clean, constantly. We sanitize our carts, our baskets and our credit card machine after every single use. We already had a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning checklist - that includes our door handles and light switches! We just bumped up the amount of times we are doing that.
2) Crowd control can be managed well. Small businesses can easily see everyone coming in their door, typically they are greeted with a smile (currently with an eye smile!) and a hello. It's easy to make sure there is plenty of space for social distancing. Businesses that schedule appointments can manage that even easier! In a few cases, we were requested if someone could come during non open hours. Absolutely! We can do that!
3) We know you and your needs. In our case, we have been able to help large families get the amounts of food they need. One family I talked to had to go from store to store each week because of food restrictions. As a small business, we could accommodate them.
4) We can follow all guidelines and maintain a safe place in a friendly way. Our signs use words like "kindly" and they are presented in a nice colorful way. Our store is bright and open, we have intentionally created more space in all of our shopping areas so social distancing isn't an issue.
5) Giving back to the community comes naturally (or at least it should!). In my opinion, community partnership is a privilege. Instead of being annoyed when someone asks for a donation I see it as an opportunity to say thank you a school or group or organization who considers us a vital part of the community. As an essential business with permission to open, we were able to support some local folks and organizations who lost their avenues of sales. One example is the Girl Scouts. Understandably, the Girl Scouts were not permitted to sell in typical fashion this year. The cookie sales are essential to funding their programs. With special permission granted, they were allowed to drop off their cookies in retail spaces to be sold. We were happy to partner with some of our local troops to sell their cookies - people were so happy to get their cookies and troop leaders were relieved to not have boxes of cookies in their pantries. Community kindness isn't just about giving, it's about doing! And we can do!
6) There is the highest level of accountability. The folks who come in the our doors are my neighbors and friends, my children go to school with the children whose parents and grandparents shop in our store. When you receive an email, Facebook response or other similar message it's directly from me or another real person. It's not an auto response and it is ultimately my name on the line! I have no large corporate company name to hide behind.
7) A positive experience can change your day. Last but not least is the mental and emotional health struggle that has escalated during the past few weeks. It's been cold, rainy and the end of winter, routines have been disrupted and for some folks those adaptations just don't come easily. A familiar experience, can help.
The past few weeks, as hard and challenging as it has been to adapt our business, will be one of the most memorable times in the history of retail business for me personally. People were kind, people were patient, people were understanding in all regards. All of this has helped us all slow down a bit and renew our perspective. The community support that has been behind us, I hope will continue and I hope to respond in kind.
As small businesses are permitted to open up again, they are going to desperately need our support! I love seeing this happen already. Frequent them, buy gifts from them, tip well!
That being said, if you are a small business, set your standards high. Be a safe place, don't be shy about telling your customers and community what you are doing. I struggled with that, but then I realized that is what helps earn and sustain our trust. Follow the guidelines but be kind and friendly about it. Be accommodating.
In this Together,
Hello! I am Denise (Rohrbach) Bosworth. My husband Dan & I established Big Dan's BBQ in 2012 & took over the management of the farm market in 2015.