ST CHARLES, Mo. — "This is our make or break this is -- the holiday season is when we make our year,” said Lydia Crespo, artist and owner of The Cozy Shop on Main Street in St. Charles.
She and other small business owners hope shoppers remember them as they cross off their holiday gift lists this season. With many of these shops shutting down due to the coronavirus at various points this year, and foot-traffic down in general, they’re operating at even thinner margins than usual to round out 2020.
“I don't think it's any secret across the board that right now retail brick and mortars, and of course our restaurant industry as well, we're down, we're having a difficult year,” said Ashley Jaswal, owner of FR & Company, also on Main Street.
“This is the year that we really need to step it up,” said Brittany Roach, who lives in St. Charles and chose to spend her Black Friday shopping small. “We love Main Street and want it to be here to stay.”
During the ongoing pandemic, many small business owners made big changes to help customers feel safe....
“I think the biggest things that we've done are the same things that other storefronts have done-- we have the Plexiglas up, we are using disinfectant spray as if it's going out of style -- which is certainly not the case,” jokes Jaswal. “We are doing our best to find a balance between maintaining a personal relationship with our customers and also remaining as distant as we possibly can.”
“We are always wearing masks, we ask that you wear masks when you enter the shop,” said Crespo, who says she wishes St. Charles would pass a mask mandate in order to alleviate pressure on small business owners who are trying to protect their employees.
"Black Friday" got its name because it's considered the time of year when business ledgers move from the red to the black -- from operating at a loss, to profiting. If that's true for businesses in a typical year, it's even more so now -- when they're likely even deeper in the red, working to survive.
“To understand how important it is to shop small this holiday season is to understand the investment that you want to see in your community, the success that you want to see from your community,” Jaswal said.
“Those times that we donated gift cards, that we donated sweatshirts or t-shirts, we're calling in a favor -- just make sure that you come out and support us,” said Crespo.
If you’re concerned about the crowds, many places are offering a buy online, pick up in person option, or even discounts on local shipping. If you don’t know what to buy someone, consider a gift certificate to a local business, or tagging them in a social media post so others can find them, too.