Over the past few months, shopping—whether it be for groceries or a new pair of slippers—has consisted of browsing the internet, adding to cart and waiting up to 10 days for the expected purchase to make its way to your front door. Now though, as Northern Virginia has entered phase two of reopening, shopaholics have the opportunity to make their way back into their favorite local boutiques, with masks on and new safety precautions in place.
Carmen Lopez, the longtime owner of consignment shop Current Boutique, has been preparing for this moment since the day she had to close all four of her storefronts, two of which are in Arlington and Alexandria. Here, the Arlington resident walks us through how she’s prioritized online marketing, kept in touch with customers and implemented new safety measures for all customers, staff and consignors alike.
Tell me about what it was like transitioning during the pandemic.
We had thought we would be dealing with a short, two-week shutdown but as time went on we realized it was more serious and we had to switch gears and plan for the worst-case scenario. We had to furlough our 30-plus employees and work with a skeleton staff. Our goal was to make sure we had a viable business when this was all over.
And how were you able to do that?
We have focused our attention to online sales and marketing. And, as of late, the Virginia stores recently opened, which was great for our business. The people who ventured out are our regulars, and they want to support us and get that retail therapy. Our stores are generally not a chaotic shopping experience. Our customers and consignors feel safe and have lots of room to shop in a boutique atmosphere.
Are all of your stores currently open, and did you have to close completely at any point?
All four locations had been closed since March 16, but opening our Virginia stores was a huge relief for us. When they finally released the date we were in go mode to get the stores prepped and safe for our customers and staff. We are still waiting for Maryland and DC to release an opening date, but we will be ready when the time comes.
In the stores where we are open, we are doing the following: limiting occupancy capacity to 50%; encouraging 6 feet of space while shopping; all employees and customers are required to wear a mask; we’ve placed self-sanitizing stations around the store; and we’ve enhanced cleaning regimens for frequently contacted surfaces throughout the day.
As a small business owner, what’s been the hardest part of this for you emotionally?
I have been in business for over 13 years, so to have the stores close and not have a date to reopen was very hard to digest. You just have to keep on going, plan and roll with the punches.
Do you have anything else planned right now to keep shoppers connected with Current Boutique?
While not everyone may feel safe to venture out right now, we are pushing everyone to shop online and support us. We have fun, curated sections to shop like “Zoom Call Chic,” “Couch-Side Career,” “Backyard BBQ,” etc. This business has been a labor of love for me for more than a decade, and I truly appreciate the local support and cannot survive without it.
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