Greenville businesses change how they provide services amid coronavirus outbreak
In mid-March, Vikki Slavin, who owns Poinsett Bride, did everything she could to make sure her seamstresses were still employed. She continued holding wedding dress fittings and limited the number of people in the stores.
With social distancing rules in place and the nonessential parts of the world shut down, Upstate businesses like Poinsett Bride are forced to get creative if they want to keep their doors open.
For Slavin and her crew, this means virtual wedding dress fittings. Here's how they do it:
A stylist video-calls the bride to get to know her and what she wants in a dress. After the call, the stylist picks out 10 to 12 dresses for a call where the bride can see the dresses on mannequins and the stylist can zoom in to show fabrics and how the dress would fit.
"We try to make it as much as an in-store experience as possible," Slavin said.
Then, the bride picks out up to five dresses to pick up curbside at Poinsett Bride to try at home. Slavin said she encourages the brides to call in while trying them on so the stylist can see and help the bride with pinning and clamping.
Slavin said she doesn't see the virtual dress fittings continuing once the coronavirus slows down — the in-store experience is too important, she said. But, long term, Slavin sees the industry changing. Wedding budgets will go down due to layoffs and strained financial situations, while some are choosing go through with spring weddings virtually with almost no budget.
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Drive-thru real estate closings
However, some see the way they've had to adapt continuing post-coronavirus.
Like Holliday Ingram Law in downtown Greenville — the real estate law firm began offering drive-thru real estate closings this week.
"It was forced on us a bit," real estate attorney Trey Ingram said. They leased an old bank drive-thru a block and a half from their office for six months where buyers are able to use three lanes, teller drawers and cannister shoots to send signed documents.
With iPad stations in the lanes, the buyer, seller, realtor and mortgage loan officer are all able to be there virtually. Ingram said with everyone involved, it would be impossible to do curbside while keeping socially distanced.
Though the process is still pretty new, Ingram said it's been successful.
"It might work so well that we'll keep doing it," Ingram said.
'Kill COVID, not small biz'
Brittany Hoots, owner of 601 South Boutique, said though she's giving it her all, her West End business is still struggling.
The boutique sells tween and ladies clothing and jewelry and Hoots said spring is normally their busiest season. Around this time, people usually start to look to boutiques for vacation clothes. But with the store closed and customers unable to vacation, 601 South Boutique's sales are down.
Hoots said she's done everything she can to stay afloat. They've done deals of the day on social media, offered free local delivery, marked prices down and sold T-shirts that read "kill COVID, not small biz." She even offers a FaceTime shopping service for customers who can see the boutique's products virtually and pick out what they want — but as of Tuesday, only two customers had done it.
When Gather GVL outdoor food hall opened in the West End in February, Hoots and other business owners were thrilled. There was a new energy brought to the West End. Now, COVID-19 has taken that energy and excitement away, Hoots said.
"Us shops in the West End stick together," Hoots said. "It's heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking."
Though Hoots and other business owners are struggling, rent is still due, she said, and they're not giving up. Once everything dies down, she plans to host re-opening parties at the boutique.
"We're not giving up and we're hopeful."
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