Raili Burton
palmettoreport@gmail.com

Editor’s note: This story was originally filed in April during the spring semester.

(Beaufort, S.C.) — COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to shut their doors and mandating customers to stay home.

Small businesses in particular are being hit hard during these unprecedented times. From a coffee boutique, to a plumbing service to online shops, all are having to adjust to the current reality.

Small business owner Kaitlynn Vassalle was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast to discuss how the shop that she co-owns with her mother, Anita Boose, is coping with these unexpected changes.

Vassalle and Boose own Urban Nest, a coffee shop and home decor boutique, in Beaufort, S.C., which is the main source of income for their families.

“We had to kind of shift gears and be creative with how we went about getting our products, our drinks and just our name out there to the public,” said Vassalle.

“So, we were able to introduce a lot of different things that people found really easy, so that we’re still able to keep up with all of our bills and keep our staff going. Just being really innovative with branching out from the norm and creating new systems,” she said.

Urban Nest is described on its Instagram as an, “eclectic bohemian-inspired furniture, home decor, clothing and accessories boutique and coffee shop.”

Vassalle said she has been utilizing social media to reach out to customers.

The shop’s Instagram account has turned to posting photos of their furniture and home decor items, along with the price, so their followers can still shop from home.

They have incorporated curbside pickup for coffee orders, the app Venmo for payment transactions and the use of a delivery service app called Cloosiv.

Urban Nest is staying afloat with its online presence, despite having limited staff and customers no longer walking through the front door.

Some companies are discovering the need to reinvent their approach to stay connected to the public and keep their businesses open.

Sydney Conroy, owner of the small Etsy shop, Wynn and Willow Co., said that her business was affected negatively at the start of the stay at home order.

She recognized the need to modify what she currently offered in her shop to include handmade face masks, made from the fabrics used for her other products.

“We decided to switch gears a bit and start selling face masks to the public since it’s mandated that everyone needs to have one and there is such a shortage. Our target audience is usually parents, babies or Disney fans, so to adapt we needed to change our target audience a bit to help us get through this time financially,” Conroy said.

Many businesses have learned that having a new mindset to the current situation is key to staying positive, visible and moving forward.

“I think just expect the unexpected, stock up, get creative and try to adapt to the situation. This was just such a quick and unexpected situation for everyone. It’s something that you can never be prepared for,” Conroy said.

Traci Chapman of Oak Forest Island Plumbing in Bluffton, S.C., said she hasn’t had much change in business due to the pandemic.

“We haven’t really been affected too much. We already had contracts on seven new builds, so we’ve been busy,” Chapman said.

Online businesses and brick and mortar shops are faring differently than local trades. With the public mostly at home, home improvements are happening and construction is steady.

Chapman said businesses in her area and the community are assisting one another in order to help keep everyone working in some manner, including helping with a home project or suggesting their name to someone else.

“Local businesses are supporting each other. Personally, we’ve had some things done at the house that we’ve been putting off just so we can throw work out to our friends,” Chapman said.

Small business owners like Vassalle say they are continuing to invest in their businesses, because of the response received from the community.

“They have been amazing. I can’t tell you how many phone calls we’ve gotten, text messages, people coming by doing curbside, so, so appreciative of us staying open. Especially our local hospitals, Beaufort Memorial, they are so appreciative of what we’re doing by staying open and just having a little bit of normalcy, even though it’s just a little cup of coffee, but to them that’s the best part of going throughout the day,” Vassalle said.

“I feel like more good is going to come out of this than I even realize now, just from the things that we’ve had to do and just how we look at things. I feel like it’s gonna make a really big impact on us in the end and our growth for our company.”