Consumers have been shopping online at an increased rate since Covid-19 swept across our country. Many local stores had to close their doors early during the pandemic, and some were able to remain open with limited hours. Items that are usually bought on a trip to the local grocery store or home improvement store are now being purchased online more often.
Many consumers have been staying away from malls, grocery stores, movie theaters, and other crowded places while choosing to shop safely online and follow CDC, state, and local Covid-19 guidelines.
Local business owners Lisa Brady of Lillie Bee Emporium, Gail Piccoli of Commerce & Craft, and Nathan Hansen and Todd Olsen of Ward and Child – The Garden Store, are some of the local businesses that have managed to survive during the pandemic by offering unique items with a personal touch.
“I feel like we do a lot to make our shop special and to cultivate a relationship with all of the people that come in,” says Lisa Brady, owner of Lillie Bee Emporium, Unique Gifts and Tea. “A lot of the people who come in prefer to shop at a small business rather than go on Amazon.”
“I don’t feel like Amazon is competition for me; Etsy would be my competition,” says Gail Piccoli, owner of Commerce & Craft, Authentic Handmade Marketplace, “Anyone who comes into my shop clearly wants something that is more of an emotional connection with what they are buying. You look at half of the stuff online and they might not appeal to you, but when you see how nicely they’re made, how good they feel, how pretty they look, and the fact that they are handmade, it hits a different chord.”
“It’s a tactile experience,” says Brady.
“Amazon has its place and my shop has its place,” says Piccoli. “I’m very fortunate that I have it here in Sugar House.”
To survive, small businesses need to bring customers in and keep them coming back. “Finding cool things and presenting them in a way that makes everything feel special,” says Brady. “I buy things for the shop that I love and that I would want for myself.”
“A lot of thought goes into who I carry, why I carry it,” says Piccoli, “We all have people in our lives that want something a little different, a little special, a little more found, they can come into the shop and find something that resonates with them. You’ve got to see it and feel it.”
When Covid-19 first started spreading, both businesses closed for a few months. They were able to open back up with the mask mandate.
“In this area, people are really good about wearing masks,” says Brady. “I feel like they’re all community-minded. We’re happy to do things for the good of the community. Without support from the community, a shop like this could never survive. “I will do my very best to make it a fun, interesting experience to come in and see what’s here. I want people to leave the shop feeling happy.”
Nathan Hansen and Todd Olsen bought Ward and Child – The Garden Store, in March of 2020, one week before the first lockdown.
“We saw the closing sign,” says Hansen. “Todd and I have been shopping here for years and just loved it; we didn’t want it to close.”
It’s been difficult having some of the goods delivered amid the global supply chain crisis. “We order from 200 different vendors; we sell furniture, outdoor concrete, a few textiles, scarfs. Some things are local, some things come from India. Teak wood for outdoor furniture comes from Indonesia,” says Hansen.
To compete with Amazon and other online retailers, they offer a personal experience. “People like to come into a place that gives them an emotional experience and camaraderie,” says Hansen, “We love to engage with our customers.”
“We try to make it more family,” says Mikeal Jensen, Manager of Ward and Child – The Garden Store. “We know their life, we know what’s going on in their world. We get a lot of repeat customers.”
Besides the personal touch they offer at the shop, they also pride themselves on their curated, artisan, and Fair Trade products, as well as the garden supplies they offer in their store. “People know they can get something unique that they can’t buy somewhere else, and they can’t get them on Amazon,” says Jensen.
The highlight for many of their regular customers is a walk through the garden. It is like a mini Red Butte Garden with grapevines, wisteria plants, and different kinds of pears growing up and over the arbors, a pond with goldfish, and a bench to relax on.
“Come in and experience our shop,” says Hansen. “We’ve been told that there is nothing else like this in Utah.”
Commerce & Craft is located at 1950 S. 1100 E.
Lillie Bee Emporium is located at 1950 S 1100 E
Ward and Child – The Garden Store is located at 678 S 700 E
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