On Community, Creativity, and Neighborhood Retail: The Best Lessons from 2020 

The Faire team has had the privilege of interviewing members of our community over the course of this year regarding the evolving landscape of independent retail. Our brands and retailers  bravely opened up and shared their advice, silver linings, and new discoveries. We’re impressed with their strength and endurance.

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on what we learned from our customers. These days, we have compiled some of the best advice and lessons we all heard from our neighborhood last year. We hope that you enjoy their thoughtful reflections as far as we did.

Sources:

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Get confidential

Maintaining personal relationships with customers was a major theme this year. This is what some of our community members had to say about getting private.

Annya White of NaturalAnnie Essentials. Photo by Allie Dearie Photography.

After a catastrophe, when you run from it, there’s always new energy, resurgence, new ways to connect and do business and to achieve your customer. For me, designing has become more intimate and personal, and I think doing business becomes more intimate and personal.   Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

*My businesses are really personal to me… I love what I do and that I recognize that is such a rare blessing. But it also wasn’t accidental. I make decisions in product and business relationships which prioritize what is in the best interest of both myself and my group. I try to make it a happy, reassuring, and inviting area for all us to develop, understand, and feel excited to come to work daily.   Claire Tibbs, Humboldt House

*Maintain a dialogue with your customers, even if you’re not open. Let them know that you’re thinking about them. Brainstorm some thoughts together about how you can adapt.  Mat Pond, Epicurean Trader

*It isn’t just about the economy, it’s all about making our customers feel excellent about their purchases too. I want to continue to go over our makers and why it’s important to keep from them… We must work together. There are a whole lot of things we can learn from one another so stay connected.  Kelly Marie Thompson, Fleur Inc.

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Prioritize community and staff

Many small business owners experienced a new sense of community with their workers and peers as a result of the 2020 pandemic. This is how a few of our brands and merchants prioritized their teams.

Epicurean Trader, San Francisco.

One of the things that we’ve discovered that has been a silver lining of the pandemic is as a [company], it’s brought us closer together. We have got more all-company meetings than we used to. My partners and I are actually doing our best to listen to our employees and to check in together and discuss mental health within the corporation.  Emily McDowell, Emily McDowell & Friends

*I’m quite cautious about working in shifts. Everybody works a two hour shift on the sales floor, at the register, or at one of these three [back-of-house] areas so that they can take a break. We switched full-time workers to four ten-hour days rather than five eight-hour days. I’ve seen a wonderful shift in how happy my team is having this extra day. I am so grateful I [made that change]; we shall never return.  Barbara Mooney, Daisy’s Mercantile

*The cool thing about our manufacturer community is that we all immediately started reaching out to find out how each other was handling all of the new issues the pandemic brought… Our company peers are priceless and the best company tutors we could ask for. I don’t think we would have navigated these waters which are new if it wasn’t for all those gorgeous folks.  Brent Rodgers, Two Little Fruits

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Stay Loaded

This season, we heard repeatedly about the importance of agility and adaptability in business, and especially in retailstores. We heard firsthand from our community about how they approached the necessity to pivot.

Kelly Marie Thompson of Fleur, Inc.. Photo by Jamie Kelter Davis Photography.

The most important thing I have learned is that you have got to be open to trying different things and pivoting as required. Not everything that is appropriate for one brand will work for another. That has been essential to my business — to hone in on accepting those pivots and trying something new.   Annya White, NaturalAnnie Essentials

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*One little pivot led to a dramatic increase in sales the week we discovered that the masks. Given that we will be home a lot more over the next six months or so, it could be time to start thinking about other ways to pivot. I am not sure what the future of small business will look like, but one thing I do know as a small business owner is that you will need to keep your finger on the pulse and look closely at your customer’s demands.  Kalyn Johnson, Effie’s Paper

*I think we’ll be a bit more strict on how we spend money and where every dollar goes. I believe we will be sure our curated collection is that much more curated so we don’t have the sort of product that stays around. I believe we’ll be a bit leaner and meaner.  John Frechette, MADE

*Retail has changed forever — that much is clear to us. But anticipating retail to return to”normal” is unrealistic. We genuinely believe we provide a outstanding knowledge in our stores — opening brick-and-mortar shops is our solution to build deeper connections with customers and get feedback in real time, and candle buying is improved through an in-house encounter. We just had to ascertain how to make it work.  Thomas Neuberger and Kristen Pumphrey, P.F. Candle

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exude confidence, gratitude, and imagination

The Faire community remains optimistic about the future of retail. Our brands and retailers told us time and time again this year how much they love what they do.

Cat Seto of Ferme à Papier.

There were a few times during [lock-down] when I realized how much I absolutely love what I do.  Barbara Mooney, Daisy’s Mercantile

*I feel this is a really interesting time for producers and retailers to look at why we wanted to do this in the first place… For me personally, [I’ve] been enjoying the additional time that I have with my son and extra minutes of drawing or introspection. We have all lived through recession and we have always bounced back. There has always been a massive quantity of imagination that has come about after, so I have faith in that.  Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

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*I am of the mindset that there’s a monumental set of the people that enjoys the experience of retail buying — the delight of walking through a store and finding something new. So I am optimistic that there’s always going to be a space for local retail.  Mat Pond, Epicurean Trader

*This year has been a substantial learning experience with our organization. We’ve learned to remain flexible; we’ve learned to lead with our values; and, most of all, we’ve learned that we will continue to shop little on account of the personal experience we provide. Your customers are shopping at your store for you.  Thomas Neuberger and Kristen Pumphrey, P.F. Candle

*I love my job so much and I truly enjoy my staff and I love our customers. I’ve had my ups and downs these last [months] but I have had more minutes of crying happy tears than I have from any kind of meltdown. That speaks volumes. Folks understand the value of buying local now more than ever.  Kelly Marie Thompson, Fleur Inc.

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