December 1, 2021

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Long life Business

U.S. Small Business: Tips for Operating Physical Store in Pandemic

Running a brick-and-mortar store during the pandemic has been a roller coaster ride for countless independent retailers across America, including Jill Lindsey. She had to close her eponymous storefront in Brooklyn, N.Y.—a combo fashion boutique, cafe, and wellness center—for more than three months. Relief from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program totaled less than one month’s rent. Most of her employees moved away.

In April, Lindsey sat on her store’s cement floor trying to come to terms with the reality that her dream might fail—through no fault of her own. Since she opened in 2014, the business has been profitable every year. Meanwhile, New York City small business revenue dropped 36{690bf022e81bf88512bdecdb3305557f8115204872cfb7a5188cd25e838f9347} and the number of small businesses open decreased 22{690bf022e81bf88512bdecdb3305557f8115204872cfb7a5188cd25e838f9347}, from January to June, according to a recent report from advisory firm Next Street. “If I’m not meant to do this, universe, take it—but hopefully, give me something better,” she recalls thinking.

relates to A Brooklyn-Born Lifestyle Brand Expands in Real Life

Jill Lindsey inside her Brooklyn store

Courtesy Jill Lindsey

 

The universe responded the next day, when the SBA deposited into her bank account an economic injury disaster loan of about $98,000 she applied to in March. She reopened in July. Since then, sales have been better than before the pandemic, even though the store is operating on reduced hours, says Lindsey.

October revenue, for example, was about $10,000 more than the same month drew last year. “When the pandemic really hit, everyone was like” ‘Pivot, pivot, pivot. Pivot this, pivot that.’ The more I kept listening to that, the more I thought, I love what I do. I don’t want to pivot.” She attributes the increase to customers eager to keep her in business. To them, the shop is “more than a store: It’s a healing space; a connecting space,” Lindsey says.

With the pandemic worsening and many brick-and-mortar stores still in coronavirus limbo, but Lindsey is expanding in real life. In mid-November, she opened a second location in Manhattan’s iconic Rockefeller Center. While it doesn’t have a cafe or a wellness space as the Brooklyn location does, Lindsey became the first woman to open her own independent retail shop at the famous complex. “It was a weird thing to announce it, because I feel bad for all the small businesses in the city that had to close,” she says.

The deal for the 1,500 square-foot street-level space is for six months. Instead of paying a fixed rent, Lindsey shares a portion of her sales with Tishman Speyer, the real estate company that owns and manages Rockefeller Center. The complex has about 100 retailers and restaurants and a vacancy rate of roughly 6{690bf022e81bf88512bdecdb3305557f8115204872cfb7a5188cd25e838f9347}. “I negotiated hard on the percentage, and I got what I wanted,” she says.