Diary of a Small Business Owner (4/27/20) - This Place Was Beautiful Once

Diary of a Small Business Owner (4/27/20) - This Place Was Beautiful Once

Last week, we moved everything out of our store.

Well, not everything. The inventory had already moved to our warehouse back in March as we scrambled to pivot to a more robust eCommerce company. The growth in orders, coupled with companies using us to send gifts to would-have-been conference attendees and those now working from home meant we were overwhelmed at our warehouse.

The team, of course, hustled. We packed as many people as we could, clad in gloves and masks and staying as far apart as possible, into our warehouse that was set up to handle a few online orders per day and was now doing five or six dozen, plus several hundred custom bulk gift box packs.

I'm a big believer that you should never outgrow your infrastructure as a business owner. When you do, you'll crumble and you may not recover. You'll waste money, get things wrong, and generally have a tougher time as you try to reach scale or profitability. 

It was time to stop trying to empty the ocean with a teacup. The warehouse needed upgrading.

Since our store remains closed for the near term and we needed shelving, computers, printers - everything - it was time to move. We called a crew and set a date. We'd empty the store.

I was there when they came. Not since we opened back in 2014 has the store been this bare. (Not even last month's tornado caused us to empty our space so thoroughly.) Shelving and packaging gone. Nothing plugged in. No water cooler. 

This place was beautiful once. 

Our retail store has become the "face" of Batch. Many customers first encounter us that way, tucked into our indoor, year-round farmers market. Tourists and locals alike have stopped in, looking for a gift or souvenir, and finding something more than they imagined, served with a smile, all in service of building deep connection. That is why as we have grown and have an eye toward the future, our plans have always involved brick-and-mortar retail. 

Our store - along with the rest of the Farmers Market - has been silent and empty since March 16 (six full weeks now). No one shopping. No one asking where an ATM is. No one frantically needing something to take his girlfriend's parents and no one shopping with the boss's credit card. No conversations or questions. No smiles. No connection. 

This place will be beautiful again. 

The country seems to be reopening, little by little. And eventually it will be Nashville's turn and with it, the Farmers Market and our store. For a while, we'll inhabit a smaller footprint than when we closed, with fewer shelves housing fewer products. 

But soon enough, we'll grow again. We'll inch back toward our previous parameters and fill the shelves with food and home goods, stationery and leather. Laughter will emanate from groups as they shop during a weekend getaway and our staff will be riddled with questions about the makers who make the fine wares filling our space. 

Becoming an entrepreneur means you're betting on two things: 1) yourself and 2) the future. Over these last six weeks, we've gone all in on a few things at Batch. We've redesigned our online store because even when our store is beautiful again, our warehouse (which we've recently made beautiful) will still be poised to crank out high volume online orders each day. We've begun sourcing products from other cities so you can send a taste of Charlotte, Columbus, Memphis, Birmingham, and a few other select cities.

Since Batch began we have always championed the local purveyor and looked for ways to help them make more of what they love so that their story spreads as far as possible. With a closed store, it would be easy to pack in that dream and just wait. But we've kept dreaming while we wait. 

We dream our store will be full and beautiful again. And you will come shop. And we will be here. And we will remember how a disease just made us pause; it didn't make us quit.

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I began keeping this diary on Friday, March 13. You can read all of these posts by clicking here.

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