This is the time of year when small businesses in the Golden Isles traditionally see a steady flow of walk-in customers every day.
COVID-19 has changed everything.
While a large number of small businesses are closed because of the Glynn County emergency order, the ones that remain open are finding ways to serve customers.
Durrett Moerman, owner of Cunninham Jewelers in downtown Brunswick, said her business is open because she realizes people still have birthdays, anniversaries and other events to celebrate, and they want to buy gifts.
While she is not encouraging people to walk into the store, the doors remain unlocked for customers who want to browse. When they leave, she said areas where customers have been browsing are sanitized.
Moerman said her business has been getting a lot more phone calls from customers in recent days. She tells callers she can ship merchandise, meet them at the curb or send photos. Business the past two weeks has been “OK”, but she’s not selling a lot of engagement rings.
Moerman said she plans to remain open as long as possible and support surrounding businesses that also are struggling to survive.
“We can see everyday it’s less people,” she said. “We’ve been trying to support the people around us.”
Bob Blanchard, owner of Saltwater on St. Simons Island with wife Sissy, said his business is trying to survive by marketing online, selling gift cards and opening store doors by appointment.
“We’re waiting to see how this plays out,” he said.
Blanchard said some of the more popular outdoor furniture is Polywood, which is easy to sanitize. While business is slow, he believes he can weather the uncertain times ahead.
“It just takes one good order to make a good day,” he said.
Sissy Blanchard said she is working to create an online shop as a way to remain in business.
“This is something we have been wanting to do but haven’t had the time,” she said. “We also have gift cards available at a discount so that customers can support us through this and shop at a discount when we reopen.”
Merrill Edens, owner of Maggie’s Boutique on St. Simons Island, said she is using social media and advertising to serve her customers. She is also setting up an online store to sell sportswear, women’s clothing and accessories.
“We’re still open today because we didn’t have to close,” she said. “I don’t know how long we’ll stay open. We’re doing everything we can do.”
Edens is concerned about the five employees she had to lay off during a normally busy time of year.
Anna Stamper, owner of Southern Finds on St. Simons Island, said she is using all forms of electronic media to reach out to customers. On Thursday afternoon, she had two responses.
“It’s definitely been quiet,” she said.
She also had two local customers who came into her store by appointment.
“They just wanted to buy a few things to support my business,” she said.
Her business is open to provide a service to people looking for a gift, inspirational book or other merchandise sold at her shop.
“Nothing I have is essential to the people,” she said. “We’re losing a lot of business, but people are still going to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.”
Sandra Delaney, owner of The Yellow Canary, said her store on St. Simons Island is open by appointment only. Like many other merchants struggling to survive, she is depending on social media to reach out to potential customers.
“This week has been scary,” she said. “We’ve been working to get our online store going.”
Delaney’s business has been in the Golden Isles 36 years and she is concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on small businesses, but she also understands why it’s necessary for everyone to follow health advisories.
“We’re going to flatten the curve,” she said. “We’ve all got to be vigilant.”
Some other businesses trying to serve customers in the Golden Isles include:
• Jared DiVincent at On the Fly Outfitters is doing virtual shopping with free delivery. He is also conducting video chat with customers.
• Mike Murphy Kia and Step One Automotive are offering pick-up and delivery service.
• Island Jerk has X’s marked on the sidewalk to indicate where customers should wait for pick-up orders placed in advance at 267-4742.
• Crawford Perkins at So Glo Guitar Gallery is entertaining customers since local music venues are closed. Some other local entertainers are doing the same. Here are links to some of Perkins’ posts: https://www.facebook.com/crawford.perkins/videos/10221722235347188/.