Hopeful Holidays?

How is your business reaching out to customers during this pandemic holiday season? What lessons have you learned? What makes you hopeful for 2021? Let me know!

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

Contact me at brenda@TheEastsiderLA.com

Appointments, Worries and Crowdfunding


"I'm worried about what these new closures of outdoor dining will mean to my business," says Michelle Helseth of Native Boutique in Eagle Rock. "We count on foot traffic from those places; we have a very symbiotic relationship with our local restaurants. How much will I be impacted?"

Pandemic-related restrictions are changing almost daily in Los Angeles for small businesses, which leaves many retailers on a continual high alert for safety and survival.

“There’s an uptick in anxiety shoppers have about being inside of stores,” says Brent Schoenbaum, retail analyst at Deloitte. “A lot of consumers want to shop in stores closer to home, preferring smaller retailers than going to a mall location.”

But getting shoppers into the stores is one thing; how much they spend is another.

Schoenbaum points to a recent survey that suggests consumers in Los Angeles will spend $1,256 this holiday season; down 17% from last year.  “E-commerce continues to grow and that presents challenges to in-store shopping.”

Turning to Crowdfunding?

“The new lockdowns are somewhat terrifying,” admits Alex Maslansky, co-owner of Stories Books and Café in Echo Park.

Book sales are not bad (“only down about 15-20 percent”) with many orders coming from online. “I’ve never made this many visits to the post office before,” says Maslansky with a laugh.

The biggest worry is the lost revenue from the café, which cannot welcome patrons to sit down with a coffee and a small bite in an outdoor patio. “We will lose about 50-60 percent in sales,” he says. “That is going to be hard.”

There is talk of launching a Crowdfunding campaign to help the 12-year-old bookstore survive. “We just want to get through the holidays in one piece,” says Maslansky.

Missing foot traffic

“I’m worried about the new closures of outdoor dining,” says Michelle Helseth, owner of Native Boutique in Eagle Rock. Located on Colorado Boulevard, the store is surrounded by many restaurants where outdoor dining is now temporarily shuttered.

“I count on foot traffic from those places; we have a very symbiotic relationship to that industry,” said Helseth, explaining this setback is just another level of fear to live through. “This week should have been chaos with people buying outfits for Thanksgiving, but it’s not.”

Still, she sees glimmers of hope. She places clothing orders a year in advance; this year’s holiday predicted trend happened to be loungy looks and causal chic – the wardrobe items that shoppers are clamoring for these days.

“I feel fortunate that I had a lot of these items on order before the pandemic hit,” she says.  

Setting appointments

Customers can have a private shopping experience at Mush in Silver Lake, a gift store that features new and vintage items. Shoppers can set up a time either before or after regular hours, pay $25 to hold a space and apply that money toward their purchase.

"It’s been working out well,” says co-owner Michelle van der Heijden, who explained the idea came from older clientele who “didn’t want the risk of being around so many other shoppers.”

“We are a gift shop and people come here ready to buy,” explains van der Heijden, who adds that popular items this year are jewelry, puzzles and crystals, especially those that promote calming, protection and abundance.

“Crystals are popular because it’s a way many of us are hanging onto some kind of hope,” she says.

POLL: How will you holiday shop this year?

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Kono's Kitchen is online at Konoskitchen.com.

Retail Snapshots

Out & About Supply in Silver Lake is offering a collection of locally-made, protective, fashionable masks with a strap system that allows the wearer to hang it around their neck when not in use. A portion of each sale goes toward building recreational spaces in underserved communities through The Los Angeles Neighborhood Trust.

Matrushka Construction Boutique launched a new limited edition design collaboration with renowned artist Ann Magnuson that celebrates David Bowie. The lounge pajamas, Ziggy Unisex Jams, will be available through January 9, 2021. The Echo Park store also is displaying Magnuson’s art show “Moonage Daydream” with pieces crafted during the pandemic.

-- By Brenda Rees

Americans say they'll support small businesses

About 75 percent of Americans want to support small businesses because of pandemic challenges, according to a new survey from Ware2Go, a UPS-owned company which helps businesses scale their production. About 40 percent of those surveyed explained the main reason they would shop small is to benefit the overall economy.

Let's hope these consumers put their money with their mouth is.

That’s it for this issue!

Many small businesses are calling it quits -- but it's hard to track actual numbers. Have you heard of a small business on the Eastside that has closed? Let us know. We want to better understand how the national economics are affecting our local community.

We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.

-- Brenda Rees

Connect With Your Chamber of Commerce

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Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce

East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

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Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce

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