EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the first in a series on how Fairborn small businesses have weathered and perservered through 2020. If you own a Fairborn business and would like to be featured in this series, contact London Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBORN — In the 39 years that Pete Bates has been in business, 2020 has certainly been the most unusual. As the weeks wind down to the end of 2020, the owner and operator of Shwartz Jewelers in Fairborn shares his experience being a business owner during one of the most tumultuous years in modern history.
The initial COVID-19 shutdown in March, a move which impacted business owners around the country, was by far the most unusual experience of the year.
“In my lifetime we had never been shut down for any reason like this,” Bates said. “The good news is that customers have come back and are doing business.”
Bates credits Shwartz’ longevity in the community, and the subsequent relationships with customers, as a reason for weathering the economic upheaval of the pandemic. Bates says that repeat customers have continued coming in since reopening, which has contributed to the health of his business.
“My standing line is that I’m glad it didn’t happen the first year I owned the jewelry store,” he said. “My retail is certainly a much better place to be as opposed to a restaurant or bar. There’s no recovering for the year, but we’re still going to be here. We’re very fortunate.”
In addition to the COVID-19 shutdown, Shwartz has been affected by factors beyond the storefront. Earlier this year, watch manufacturer Seiko experienced delays after a supplier on the east coast was hit by a hurricane.
“Manufacturing was curtailed,” Bates said. “When it came to getting a particular item, customers were very forgiving.”
For entrepreneurs, patrons, as well as local civic leaders, the theme of this year has been finding ways to adapt and overcome. The City of Fairborn made CARES Act grant money available to small businesses earlier this year. Though Bates says he didn’t take advantage of the grant money, he still looked at other ways of promoting his business, particularly online.
“Everyone has a different angle of survival,” he said. “I think everybody’s looking at social media, electronic advertising, all of that is changed now. We’ve had a sharp increase in online communication.”
Shwartz has already been using social media, particularly Facebook, for advertising, as well as using Messenger to stay in contact with customers.
“I got pushed into [social media] many years ago,” Bates said. “Obviously, it was worthwhile.”
The pandemic and the compounded difficulties of 2020 do have a silver lining. With increased awareness of the vulnerability of small businesses, Bates says patrons have rallied around shops like his at an unprecedented level.
“People are now aware of small business,” he said. “People come in and say ‘I want to shop with small businesses.’ People have genuine concern. They want me here, and it feels really good to hear that.”
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