I’ll be frank. Most small businesses in America right now are in a fight for survival.
The landscape is completely new and every one of your favorite local businesses is facing devastating decisions about their future. Here in Oakland, businesses are working together and the support from our community has been great, but without strong local, state and federal policy to INVEST in our small businesses, rather than clunky, confusing loans, the relief that was provided will be a temporary stop gap to a massive economic bleed. Many businesses have already shut due to an inability to even access the loans at all - or an inability to add more debt when everything is so uncertain. The small businesses that are still scrambling to stay open are adjusting their business models to a constantly changing and murky situation where details are few and far between and tensions are high.
Across the country, businesses like mine that were able to secure the PPP loans are hiring back employees with loans that have a limited time period of 8 weeks to use, at the end of which, there is no guarantee we will continue to have funds to employ those people. We essentially signed a paper, hired our employees back and crossed our fingers that the next 8 weeks would bring relief and a return to normalcy, and that we'd get enough done to pivot our businesses to become fully self-sufficient again.
We may have kicked the can down the road for 8 weeks, but, sadly, a lot of us aren’t going to make it.
My shop, Maple Street Denim, is built on having a very personal one-on-one relationship with our customers, and we are trying our best to provide that experience in our online shop. I am halfway through my 8 week loan period and Eden and I have worked harder than we have ever worked before to keep things going, to pivot where we need to pivot and try to keep ourselves employed. We are learning totally new skills and implementing totally new software and processes and policies to keep our business alive. The demand for what we do has completely changed and everything I knew and could predict is over. I cannot reasonably project what my sales will be when trying to budget for my business. Our business is alive, but we are down 90%
So with that very plain view of what things are like for me as an individual human business owner, I hope you understand why our prices are not slashed and why when we do open our brick and mortar, our denim fit consultations will require a nonrefundable $25 deposit. I am not asking you to donate to me or to pity me, I'm just asking you to understand that with things as precarious as they are, we can’t afford to do this without some way to protect our labor and my continued financial investment in this business. Moving forward, as our brick and mortar opens back up, having appointments booked and deposits held will be the best way to understand where our business is headed and if we will be able to stay open long term.
Similarly, if I start marking everything down now, I will not have money to reinvest in inventory and continue bringing in new merchandise. We need to keep our prices stable if we are going to stay open. We’re not going out of business so we are not having a going out of business sale.
That being said, we are doing our best to adjust and to provide services and goods to people who are also hurting financially and can't afford to spend the same way right now. I have decided to begin offering refunds instead of store credit as one way to make things easier for people to make purchases. I am also working to bring a very comprehensive sale to you in some way or another, and we are also offering some limited price matching.
I hope some of these new things will help make it easier for us to keep people coming to Maple Street. We are doing the best we can.
When I decided to open a shop, I wanted to have a place where people get to come to just feel good about themselves, a place where you could hang out and talk and we'd get to know you and vice versa. A social place. A good place. There is an incredible amount of pressure on us from a lot of different directions right now and we're doing the best we can, but if it ever feels like this isn't a good place any more, then I don't want to keep doing it.
I am grateful for the support and understanding and patience from the biggest majority of you, but for those of you who have been unsatisfied or upset about my decisions, all I can say is this: What's best for us as individuals isn't always what is best for the greater good, so let's all try to pause and have some empathy for each other and start thinking like a community again.