When it became apparent that her boutiques’ doors would have to shut during the coronavirus pandemic, Megan Podolsky didn’t give up. Instead, the owner of Mint Condition and 529 Kids Consign, both located in Alexandria, took to virtual calls with clients, driving to homes to deliver orders and brainstorming ways to keep the shopping going, even if it couldn’t be done in person.
Podolsky, who is also the president of the Old Town Boutique District, gave us insight on what her businesses look like during Virginia’s stay-at-home order, and how community support is at the heart of it all. Read more below for highlights from our conversation.
What has your business operation been like since the pandemic, the stay-at-home order and everything else going on right now?
We’re still kind of open. We’re following the governor’s safety standards and precautions, where he said if it’s not essential business, if you can keep it to 10 people or less, then you can stay open. So, we’re by appointment only and we have shorter hours. We’re doing business in a shorter window of time. We’re doing a lot of business on Instagram. We do a ton of stuff on social media, and people can buy on Instagram; our loyal customers know that well. For me, as a small business in Old Town, what makes a small business special is that personal touch with the customers and the relationships that you have when they come into the store, and you know them and you know what they need. We’re doing virtual shopping, having Zoom parties, with one employee at the shop and then they tell us what they’re looking for and we can show them what we have. Then, we can invoice them and we’re doing curbside pickup and I’m doing local delivery. And then we also do flat-rate shipping.
What have the reactions from your clients been like?
With all of the [Old Town] boutiques, you get that personal touch. People want that personal touch, and you don’t get that online. That is what people are missing a lot right now, just the interaction. We as humans need that. We thrive on those human interactions. But our community is grateful. Clients will DM (direct message) me and I’ll show them pictures of what we have.
As a small business owner, what’s been the hardest part emotionally?
Walking in and seeing the empty store and knowing how hard I’ve worked to get to spring, and spring is such a big season for retail, and the products look great … To walk into an empty store, it’s really sad. I’m so blessed to be in such an amazing community where we live in one that supports us. Like, we don’t know when we’re getting out of this, but our clients are buying dresses just because they know that eventually they will get through this and they’re supporting us. Knowing I have the community support behind me is just amazing.
You own two businesses, and you’re a mother. How have you been balancing your work and home life during this time?
I am good at juggling everything, multitasking. I just have to stay more organized than I’ve ever been. For example, my house is clean before I start dealing with the kids in the morning for school. And then I get them started on their schoolwork and I sit at my computer and do a little work. I’m still in my stores one day a week just to check in, and we have a great employee there that’s wiping things down constantly. I’m very organized, and now I’m at home and I have the time to make sure all the laundry is done and the dishes are done … if that is all OK in my life, then I can do everything else.
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