Lewes businesses pivot in time of uncertainty

Retail shops moving online following order to close
April 1, 2020

When downtown Lewes businesses were ordered to close March 24, many shop owners immediately pivoted to boost their online presence in an effort to stay afloat over the next few months. 

Artist Abraxas Hudson, whose shop is on Second Street, said he’ll be offering one-on-one lessons virtually. 

“This is not like a hurricane that comes on Friday, and we’ll start cleaning up on Saturday,” he said. “At this point, it’s sort of an open-ended lifestyle change. No one really knows what the future holds for any of us.” 

With consumers seeing longer delivery times for packages purchased from Amazon and other national brands, Hudson said, now is the time to support local brick and mortar stores, even if you can’t go inside them. 

“The reality is many local merchants still offer the products you need,” he said.

Hudson said he’s reached out to many Lewes merchants to provide support and rally toward their common goal of survival.

“Yes, we’re challenged right now, but the reality is there is a will to pull together,” he said. “More so from the people who are right in the fire right now. We need to get together to brainstorm solutions and encourage each other.”

Betsy Reamer, executive director of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, said she’s doing everything she can to help her membership. She’s been sharing information about loan and grant opportunities as soon as she receives it, and she’s been using the chamber’s Facebook page to share all of her members’ posts to spread awareness.

“It’s so multifaceted what’s going on,” she said. “Not only are businesses having problems with trying to pay the rent and other fixed costs, they’re also dealing with new business models. All those restaurants that never did takeout had to figure it out quick. On top of that, they had to lay off employees.”

Several Second Street stores are pouring their efforts into selling their products online.

Jenny Donahue and Darica Ward, who own Deanna’s + Piccolino and Henlopen Trading Co., are taking orders through social media.

“All of us gear up for the summer season by increasing our inventory. Right now our store is packed with beautiful spring and summer clothing. However, we made the personal decision to close early [March 15] in order to protect our team and customers and to reduce the spread.

“We are asking for your help. We are faithful that you will all be there for us when we need it. And, that time is now,” they wrote in a Facebook post.

Kids’ Ketch has set up an online store. As of April 1, the shop had only a few items such as puzzles and games, but owners Lori and Sandy Smyth said they can ship any item in their inventory if requested. The couple also owns Tidepool Toys in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island.

The shop also continues to move forward with its Lego building contest. Entrants were initially instructed to bring their creations into the store, but due to the COVID-19 situation, they are encouraging people to send photos of their creations via Facebook or email. The photos will then be added to the Facebook pages for Kids’ Ketch and Tidepool Toys.

Jen Mason, owner of Biblion and Vintage Underground, made a choice to shut down her business well before Gov. John Carney’s mandate. She said she’s not worrying about her businesses right now and is focusing on sending customers to her vendors to keep them afloat during this difficult time.

“I don’t want them to fail,” she said. “They’re great companies. I want my regular customers to not feel bad about doing business with those small businesses because I know they’ll come shop with me after this is over. We’re all in this together. It’s about the larger picture and how I can support the larger picture, because that helps me too.”

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