Diary of a Small Business Owner (3/23/20) - Deemed Essential
Yesterday, I got several texts from friends and family around 10am sharing with me Mayor John Cooper's Safer at Home order, suspending non-essential business operations and asking all Nashvillians to stay at home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
I and our team are in complete support of the order. But we're also thankful and lucky to be deemed essential threefold, as 1) a warehouse business 2) selling food that 3) relies on deliveries.
Of course, like everything these last few weeks, the key has been staying fast and being able to react to changing legislation, consumer demands, and our own business needs.
Sometimes, lost in the need for speed is the chance to create art (another essential output of a thriving world). Art usually comes when people have the chance to breathe, observe, dream, dare, and then create.
We had already planned to move all of our inventory over to our fulfillment warehouse by this Wednesday, but we fast-tracked that plan, getting everything there yesterday afternoon. Being completely uncertain about when our store could reopen, it doesn't make any sense to have product there we can't sell.
After checking in on our warehouse team, I stopped by our store. It hasn't been this empty since we opened back in 2014. Even after the tornado at the beginning of the month where we lost $5k worth of product it wasn't this empty.
Of course, as someone who leans hard toward optimism I can't help but see a blank canvas. I think about one day, when the people come back, drinks in hand and money in pockets, they'll come in our full store to be greeted by a smiling face and shop for a perfect gift. They'll maybe overhear how things were that one spring when people couldn't shop in person and restaurants were empty. And in that moment they'll give thanks that we got past that stage of the virus and returned to a new normal. Their feeling of gratitude won't stop with silent acknowledgement but will manifest itself with gifts and notes and connection and relationships and we'll be ready for it.
But right now we're still stretching the canvas. Actually, we're just building the frame; stretching will come later. We're not even sure at this point what we'll paint or what we'll paint with. But we've got work to do; fulfilling the nearly 100 online orders we've gotten since Friday, along with the few hundred corporate care packages we need to prep.
And as we pack (quickly), we'll keep dreaming of the art we'll get to make again.
But for now, we'll stay essential, shipping pantry and bath items to folks who are staying in, allowing our customers to keep supporting small businesses while they socially distance.
We're not going anywhere. And that's an essential feeling that I hope so many business owner colleagues will feel again.