CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic means its anything but business as usual across Virginia. That’s especially true on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, where warmer weather would have typically meant more customers out and about this time of year. This year, stores are having to re-invent themselves, and their business models, to stay alive.
While many businesses have closed their brick-and-mortar locations, store owners aren’t taking a break. Many cannot afford to. Instead, owners like Darling Boutique’s Linnea White are putting a new spin on their old business model.
“We’re doing virtual shopping, we’ve done that with several people this week,” White explained. "We’re using Instagram’s video call, and we have video chatted with several people this week to shop for dresses, or shop for prints for your house, and all sorts of stuff.”
Before the outbreak, Darling Boutique did not have much of an online presence. The downtime caused by the storefront’s closure has given White time to expand the offerings on the store’s website.
“We’re in here every day, active behind the scenes,” White said. “Now, I can take time to work on projects like doing our big online store push, which is a huge project.”
Darling is just one business of many getting creative to keep making sales. Quattro Tizi owner Beth Reichert says that while the store is physically closed, it’s still open for business online. For the men’s clothing and lifestyle store, taking a look out for a test drive is an essential part of the business model. That’s something the store is trying to maintain.
“If, you know, someone wants a pair of VEJAs, and they want to try them on, we’re happy to drop by your house," Reichert said. "If they don’t fit, we’ll pick them up and bring a new size.”
At the end of the day, the Downtown Mall is a community. Business owners are leaning on each other for reassurance and business advice, now more than ever.
“It’s a great community of businesses, and business owners, and managers, and workers,” Quattro Tizi Manager Ian Dillard explained. “We communicate quite often.”
“We all pretty much take the same approach," Reichert added. "We feel it’s the right time to be closed.”
SupportCville.com has a wide range of resources available, for both business owners looking for assistance and community members looking to help.