Crystal Stejskal, the owner of the Pink Pineapple Boutique located in Midtown Tallahassee, sat down with me to explain what it’s really like to be running a small business in the midst of COVID-19.
Her Campus (HC): How has your small business adapted in response to COVID-19?
Crystal Meggs (CM): We have had to implement many changes. Our three biggest adaptations would be ensuring all employees wear masks, enforcing our customers to wear masks, increasing cleaning protocols and wiping down after each customer.
HC: What concerns have come up for you as you continue to run operations during the pandemic?
CM: My biggest concern is contracting COVID myself. I am the only owner of my shop, and if I test positive for COVID, I will not have enough employees to cover all of our shifts. I am also concerned about decreased revenue due to customers worrying about COVID themselves. Finally, I’m concerned that even once COVID is “over,” people may still stay home instead of coming out to shop with small businesses because we have all been conditioned to stay home during this pandemic.
HC: Have you had any issues with customers/clients following your new procedures for COVID?
CM: Yes, we have some customers who fuss about having to wear a mask. We even have a sign on our door that asks our customers to wear a mask, and some walk in without one anyway! Most of the time, though, just a simple “Do you mind putting on a mask while inside, please?” will do the trick.
HC: What concerns do your employees have while continuing to work during the pandemic?
CM: My employees are concerned that they themselves will be exposed to COVID, either from customers or fellow employees, as we work very closely. They also worry about the prospect of closing down again due to COVID and being unemployed. Most of my employees are college students at Florida State University, and this job is how they pay their rent each month.
HC: Has COVID encouraged more customers to use your website or do most still shop in person?
CM: Most of our employees still shop in person. We are a new company that just opened towards the end of 2019, less than a year before the pandemic began. We were still building up our small client base when the pandemic began, which took a large toll on our expected customer growth over the past year.
[bf_image id="q9num4-2spq8g-1xs9s5"] HC: What precautions does your small business take to make its customers feel safe while shopping with you during the pandemic?
CM: Everyone in the shop is asked to have a mask on, which should help diminish the spread of the coronavirus within our shop. We also encourage social distancing within the store, as well as periodical disinfecting between our customers. Our checkout area is now contactless, too, using a chip card reader and allowing customers to checkout without signing their receipts.
HC: Has COVID affected your clientele (age groups, demographics, time spent in the shop)?
CM: We have noticed that most of our recent clientele has been younger females, around high school or college age. Our older customers that used to shop with us frequently have tended to stay home more during the pandemic. There has been little change when it comes to the time customers spend in the shop, though. Once they’re inside, they tend to stay and shop around.
HC: Did you have to close down your shop at any point during the pandemic? If so, what encouraged you to reopen?
CM: Yes, we had to close down for six weeks last year. It was a very difficult thing to do, but the city required it. As soon as the city no longer required our closure, we opened back up again with new safety precautions in efforts to make up lost sales and pay our rent.
HC: Do you see yourself having to close down again at any point due to COVID (aside from state mandates)?
CM: Our goal is to never have to close down again. If I contract the virus, however, closure is a real possibility since I would not have enough employees to keep the shop open during normal business hours.
HC: What would you like customers and potential customers to know about you and your small business as you continue to operate during these unprecedented times?
CM: Your business is more important now than ever! If you want to continue to have small businesses in our community, we need your support now since many small businesses do not know how much longer they can sustain themselves during the pandemic. By shopping online with us, engaging with our Instagram and Facebook @thepinkpineapple850, and shopping in person with us at The Pink Pineapple in Midtown, our small business can stay afloat and keep bringing its love to our community!