Next month, we’ll see all the anniversary stories. The remembrances. The thinkpieces on what we’ve learned. It will have been one year of pandemic, and so it will be time to reflect.
We’ll do that too, but this month we’ve got business to attend to – literally, as this is our Business Issue. Most years, we look at interesting trends and movers in local business. This year, there’s only one trend.
We spoke to several people from several different sectors about what they’re doing and how business is going. One of them is the owner of Jezebel, the quirky shop near the Gateway that sells … well, that sells just about whatever I need whenever I need a gift for somebody. (This December when a friend absolutely nailed my Secret Santa gift, I correctly surmised that she’d been to Jezebel.) It’s got a few items of clothes, a bit of jewelry and accessories, stationary, all sorts of cards, fun magnets, wacky socks, rude dish towels – you get the idea. The owner, Mary, has avoided a big online presence, and walking through the compact shop you see why. The serendipity of browsing the unexpected is the shop’s great job. It’s the sort of place you just have to experience.
Which means it’s been having a bit of a hard time in an era when we’re specifically told to experience things as little as possible. And this is where things get tricky for people who want to follow guidelines and be safe while still helping to make sure that favorite local businesses are still around when enough people have had shots in their arms. We are told to be careful, and our local small businesspeople are told that they’d better find customers and ways to survive because no help is coming for them. I can tell you what I’d like to see our leaders do, but if you’re looking for a clear-cut answer to how individuals should handle that conundrum, you won’t find it here.
So we hope, and we do what we can. At the beginning of the pandemic, just as we were going into lockdown, I bought a $50 gift card from a neighbor of Jezebel, the Classic Gateway Cinema. I had the idea that this would be one small thing I could do to help a local business I care about – give them some money now, while thinking about better times. As I write this, the Gateway still hasn’t reopened. I keep the card in my wallet; I can’t wait for the day I get to use it.
Meanwhile at Jezebel, Mary remains optimistic about some things. Her shop has already overcome problems, including the years-long rebuild of the nearby Sunrise Boulevard bridge over the Middle River, which created longstanding traffic havoc. Nothing like a pandemic, obviously, but for a nearby local business it still had the potential for catastrophe. Jezebel survived.
Now Mary sees regular customers, masked up, coming in and sometimes telling her they’re here because they want her to make it. It’s a good feeling. A feeling of being a part of a community. Next month, when we’re inundated with everything, I hope we remember that.