As customers came out to shop on Small Business Saturday, area business owners reflected on what it’s been like to run a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small Business Saturday began a decade ago to encourage shoppers to support small or local businesses during the holiday season. Now, more than ever, local businesses need support because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carolyn Claytor, Wild & Free, LLC owner, said the community support she’s received this year has been amazing.
“I always say our community is the heart of small businesses, so that’s so great to have,” Claytor said.
The licensed holistic esthetician said the skincare business and spa was closed six months this year because of COVID-19. When they reopened in August, Claytor said random people she didn’t even know brought her gloves and face masks just to make sure they could stay open.
On Saturday, the store allowed 25 people an hour into the store. Leslie Nesbit, who always shops on Small Business Saturday, shopped during the hour-long block around noon. She said it felt great to give back to the community and help them out.
“I just love to see what our little community has to offer,” Nesbit said. “I think that’s the exciting part for me.”
Shannon Tinsley, owner and head baker at SweetNanaCakes Bake Shoppe, said the store offered a buy one get one free gift card to customers, which customers always love.
The bakery just moved locations from Staunton to Fishersville in March, right before the pandemic hit.
“We moved here with the expectation to grow exponentially, and then three weeks later, COVID hit,” Tinsley said. “We were very scared, but the community stepped up and has supported us during that time.”
Tinsley said people have started supporting small businesses more, which makes her happy. She added that it’s scary to be a small business owner right now.
“I have worried every day that we’re going to get shut down, or there’s going to be new restrictions put on us as a small business,” she said.
Shopper Sierra Campbell said it was important to support local businesses, especially during the pandemic.
“I work at the hospital, so I completely understand the struggle of businesses not being able to stay open during this time.”
Jonathan and Amber Buck shopped at Rockfish Gap Outfitters on Small Business Saturday. The two are big fans of the outdoors and have enjoyed coming to the store since they moved to Waynesboro a little over a year ago.
“We definitely like to support local businesses, especially this year with how crazy it’s been,” Amber said.
Rockfish Gap Outfitters has been in business for 34 years now. The support from the community this year has been awesome, said store manager Rich Gibson.
“We’re a local shop, and customers are our lifeline being a small independent retail store,” Gibson said. “We don’t sell online, so all of our customers have to come in here, so for us, that’s super important.”
Faded Poppy Mercantile owners Jason and Sara Kite made sure their regular customers could safely shop with them on Saturday. The owners moved the contents of their small shop outdoors.
“We know a lot of our regulars wanted to come back and see us, so we decided to do it the safest way we know how to, which is keep everything outside and keep our distance from everyone so that everyone can look at something different without having to be on top of each other.”
One-way-shopping was implemented, and sanitizer, masks and wipes were available for customer use.
The mercantile opened in late 2019 and just started gaining a following when COVID-19 hit, Sara said. Even then, locals continued to support them.
“We’re still building that small community,” Sara said. “The small group that has known about us has definitely shown up when we needed them to.”
Like many other businesses, Shenandoah Hemp Supply began offering curbside pickup and increased online shopping during the pandemic to keep customers safe.
“I think it’s awesome,” said store associate Lyric Judy. “I think people are supporting small businesses a lot better now than they were before just because they know about it.”
Some local businesses will continue to run Small Business Saturday specials through Sunday.