Small Business in 2020

The hardest part of this current situation is not letting people into the store. I’ve disappointed a lot of people at the door, and last week got caught breaking my own rules in the worst way, and it’s left me with an uncomfortable feeling all week.

As much as I’m grateful to have the kind of business that can be recreated online (enough to survive), I dislike it passionately. An online business was not part of my plan, and especially for a fibre arts supply store where texture and colour mean everything to the customer. The in-person sensory contact and community space have always been the driving force of this shop, and Covid has changed all of that. It’s been hard for me to adjust all of this in my head and adapt at the same time.

I’m not good at saying no. I’m easily persuaded, to a fault sometimes. I always want to be able to help. Standing in the doorway of this beautiful shop saying “no, sorry, I can’t let you in” makes me feel awful, frustrated, sad, defeated… all of it.

It seems so simple, a quick pop in, grab something, go. That would be fine (maybe?) once, but being a retail outlet – who do I allow to be that maybe once? If I let one in how do I not let in another?

Then I’m in a situation where I’ve had too much contact with too many different people for my comfort zone.

I really don’t think people grasp the seriousness of living with a deep-seeded infection. I’m not afraid of dying from Covid, I’m afraid of living with it. I already have been living with an infection that stumps doctors and has caused an array of confusing symptoms, most of which untreatable. Eleven long, frustrating years I’ve lived with this, in pain, with constantly evolving symptoms clearly caused by inflammation that can’t seem to be controlled. Inflammation, y’know, like what Covid causes. I’d rather close the shop and lose everything than catch another inflammatory infection.

My need to limit the contact around the shop is serious.

It’s tough right now because the temperature is dropping, we don’t have the enclosed entrance ready – and to be honest, I’m not sure right now how I will operate with it when we do. Initially it will just be a warm place to grab your curb side pick up.

Rising case numbers, a testing fiasco, and winter approaching are all reasons to take a step back. There is a dangerous lean in Thunder Bay toward believing that because our numbers are low that it is somehow safer here. *Not for the immune compromised* – that way of thinking is a privileged perspective of survival of the fittest, with an added “may the odds forever be in your favour.” It’s truly heartless. Sadly some people just can’t understand without experience.

This region has a terrible way of saying that “there was only one death, and he already had cancer”… *only*… and I have to wonder how many of those people saying that would say that to his family? One of my dearest customers and friends has a daughter who has a history with cancer which resulted in a heart transplant; a daughter the same age as my daughter. Would those people say the same if it was “only” her?

Covid has really brought out a strange sacrificial allowance among some people. It’s something that won’t be tolerated in this inclusive community shop. I believe in protecting those who are most at risk, and putting strict limits on those who act fearlessly.

The shop isn’t wildly busy, it’s not more than I can handle, and if I do need help around the shop I have great people to call; the staff/instructors, and volunteers haven’t gone anywhere. These wonderful ladies and I have Zoomed our way through this and find our ways to connect. We enjoyed a great sidewalk reunion last week with Ashley, Katie and Eleanor, Dana, and the fab Heliina; Tiffany stopped by later in the day. I know Denyse and Kathy are out there (*waves*).

What is hard for me right now is keeping up with messages, and trying to get my communications out there. None of that is difficult to do – it’s just finding the time to do it. Finding that time with my head in the right place (which, frankly, has been challenging in itself lately) is additionally difficult.

Working parents do require time, time that daycare and school would allow, and without it Rohan and I are both feeling our focus is torn. We’ve switched from online to home schooling and it’s already helping us find a better balance, but it’s still not easy.

(And we just have one little one with two of us! For those who are single parents [which I was for 11 years], or any with multiple children I understand the impossible, exhausting situation and applaud you.)

Applying for grants and business financial assistance (none of which have come through …yet?) is also time and emotion consuming. I really loathe doing that stuff, it makes me whiney. It’s also not necessarily difficult, but dealing with whiney me is. Me dealing with whiney me is difficult, so I’m sure Rohan agrees with a big 🙄.

None of this has anything to do with wool and yarn. None of it gives me time or energy to be creative, or focus on the “yarn shop” aspect of owning a small business. It’s all business-ey stuff, tech work, email overload, computer/phone work, …all the stuff I thought I would tolerate in exchange for the creative outlet the shop provides.

Without the people, and creative outlet I’m left feeling rather unenthusiastic about my daily tasks, and I think it shows. Thankfully I know I’m not alone, I know lots of people are feeling the gravity of changes to their daily life. None of it is easy to navigate, but at least we can remind ourselves we’re not alone.

I’ll end this long winded ramble on a positive note, saying that I’m determined to keep the shop evolving through this, with the end goal of being able to safely gather together again, shop in person, touch, talk, laugh, and inspire each other. And hugs.

If we take care of each other we’ll get there.

Thank you for all the continued kind messages and support!