BY MORGAN LEGEL
It’s no secret the effect the Coronavirus and PCOR 1 has had on the island; some of the smaller stores and restaurants are not getting enough customers in the door, and small businesses have been struggling to pay their bills and stay afloat.
Daniel and Erin Holms own Southern Mountain Gear in Hagatna, a small outdoor sports retail store. Their business has been closed for the majority of both PCOR 1 periods, and only opened for a short time in between the two mandated lockdowns.
“This lockdown feels different,” Erin Holms said. When Southern Mountain Gear was allowed to open for curbside pick-up, she said,“There wasn’t much difference from the deliveries the business was doing previously.”
She said Southern Mountain was making the best of a bad situation, and that business was, “Not even close (to a good day). Only being able to open curbside, was “marginally better than being closed all together,” Holms said.
Throughout the second lockdown, she said, “We were just barely surviving to pay the rent and some of our very basic expenses.” The business was only doing about 1% of its normal sales, even with delivery and curbside pick-up.
On Sept. 24, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero announced that — among other changes —
“non-essential” businesses would be able to open from noon on Sept. 25 to 25% of capacity.
Holmes said Southern Mountain Gear has made a huge turn in sales and operations.
“Oh my gosh, we opened right when noon hit and it’s been a dream,” she said. “We had a couple days right off the bat that were pretty busy. Not to the point where people had to stay outside, just a nice steady flow of people who needed gear.”
The 25% capacity limit did not phase Southern Mountain Gear, either.
“We generally operate at 25% capacity anyway, because we’re a small business, so it kind of feels normal to us,” she said.
“Generally, I think there’s not a whole lot of people wanting to go outside and do those important outdoor activities to keep yourself mentally happy,” Holms said.
Serving customers aside, the duo is taking other steps to try to recover business, including creating an online store, with all of Southern Mountain Gear’s inventory logged into it. It would not be for shipping but ordering online and picking up at the store.
“We’ve never had a big online presence, we were strictly brick and mortar retail, so I’m building out a website with our complete inventory. We wanted to gear it towards local buyers here to help our economy,” she said.
But small steps are appreciated a lot, Holms said. “Even if Guam could maintain this 25% capacity, it would mean so much to the small businesses. We’re very grateful,” she said.
The biggest sellers for the business recently have been sunglasses and hammocks.
Jane Lashes is located within the Agana Marketplace inside the Agana Shopping Center and is also finding doing business to be tough. Jane Lashes is a small retailer selling beauty products previously unavailable on the island.
“This last month [of lockdown] has been so hard because our normal weekly revenue decreased exponentially,” said owner Sarah Jane Antonio. “To survive during this time, I had to touch reserved monies to be able to cover incoming bills.”
Now with open doors open to 25%, Jane Lashes still has not had a surge of customers.
“Everyone is still wary of Guam’s condition. I — myself wasn’t too confident with reopening because it’s still very frightening. The best we can do is increase our preventative measures to help combat the increased spread of COVID-19,” Antonio said.
“Being open hasn’t been too bad, but business has been slow. Not many people go to the mall just to wander around, so we don’t get any passerby’s,” she said.
“These past few days we’ve really only had people who have been repeat customers to come by and shop,” Antonio added.
Jane Lashes is implementing an updated website with online ordering and encouraging curbside pick-up. The store will be restricted to one customer at a time since the location is small. A mask is required to enter, as well as using hand sanitizer at the door. The business is also encouraging customers to not touch products and ask any questions instead.
“It’s been tough, but the lockdown was definitely necessary,” she said. mbj