Downtown North Augusta businesses have adapted, grown in numbers since start of pandemic

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Lindsey Hodges, Aiken Standard, S.C.
·3 min read
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Apr. 9—When the pandemic hit over a year ago, Shoppe 3130 owners Jenny and Jesse Elliott shifted into overtime revamping their website and determining the best way to make things work out, even with the social distancing rules and virus concerns.

The changes the shop made are examples of ingenuity and change downtown business owners have had to embrace to survive COVID-19.

"My husband and I both work at our boutique so this is plan A and plan B for us — we knew we had to make it work," Jenny Elliot said.

"We also have an amazing team of staff that we love and wanted to keep employed — even when sales came to a dead halt."

A lot of retail businesses pivoted to social media, Facebook live and online sales to offset the impacts of the pandemic and to meet customers where they were comfortable, according to Avery Spears-Mahoney, executive director of North Augusta Forward.

"The restaurants, in the same fashion, did a lot of takeout and delivery accommodating customers so they could still experience the food from the restaurants," Spears-Mahoney said.

Shoppe 3130 went to live sales through Facebook — a big adjustment for Elliott, who said she's more comfortable talking to customers one-on-one.

"Our live sales became our connection to our customers. We started building deeper relationships weekly with so many of our customers. Let's face it — we were all living through a time that was uncertain and certainly unknown or unfamiliar."

The boutique added a mobile shopping app last fall, and still holds live sales through the app and Facebook. This allows customers to shop in the way they feel safest; some shop in store, some from home.

The store also purchased a transit bus and converted it into a mobile boutique that can be booked for events. Elliott said a lot of schools have booked teacher appreciation events. Teachers are given a 10% discount, which they also get in the shop.

"The bus and our online presence have been our biggest additions to the business this past year. Of course we also implemented extra sanitation and cleaning tasks for the boutique. Any clothing that is tried on in the shoppe is sanitized before it goes back on the sales floor and we are cleaning all throughout the day. We also have a sanitizing station set out for customers."

Spears-Mahoney and Elliott both said there is a lot of support for downtown businesses. So much so, Spears-Mahoney said, that it's created an environment that new businesses have felt comfortable in opening. Multiple businesses have opened downtown within the past year, including a shaved ice restaurant, UPS Store and a hibachi restaurant.

"I could cry just thinking of all of the sweet customers that have personally told me and told our team that they have made it a point to shop local and to shop local first. It's a really big deal for a business like ours to know that our community is with us and is for us," Elliott said.

She also mentioned camaraderie between downtown business owners, and said owners encourage and help each other.

Each month downtown, there is a Third Thursday event organized by North Augusta Forward during which business owners stay open later and hold events or special sales.

Spears-Mahoney said there are plans to add a makers market to the event and hopes for additional events in the fall.

Elliott mentioned both North Augusta Forward and the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce as organizations that help small business. "Both of those agencies have supported our business through the pandemic with resources, advice, and valuable connections," she said.

Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.