by AL LOHMAN
When Alycia Kocina and Tonya Pomije, owners of Mainstream Boutique-Waconia, had to close their doors to the public over coronavirus concerns, like other small business owners across Minnesota, they needed to get creative really fast.
They don’t have a traditional e-commerce website, but they do have a following of customers on Facebook. So, within a week of closing their doors, and with no staff to help, they began doing daily Facebook Live videos to connect with customers and offer some retail therapy with a look at the spring styles that delivered just before COVID-19 turned the state upside down. They have even done one-on-one “shop-alongs” using Facetime.
The videos are impromptu, not produced or pre-recorded, which “has been super-cool and really fun,” the store owners say.
Mainstream Boutique started in 1991 out of the home of a Minnesota women and now has expanded to more than 80 franchise boutiques in 25-plus states.
Kocina and Pomije worked on the floor at another store before starting their own franchise three years ago. In fact, they were all set to mark their third anniversary in mid-March when state COVID-19 shutdown orders hit.
During the past several weeks, the pair have been taking online and phone orders, and doing shipping, curbside pickup, even some deliveries.
“We are humbled by how much customers care about our small business,” Kocina said. “They love the clothes, but even more important to people right now is holding on to those personal connections we all have with one another. Customers tell us every time we do a live video how much they look forward to seeing us every day and laughing along with us.”
One customer, who spotted Kocina in the drive-through line at Mocha Monkey even bought her coffee.
The Mainstream Boutique owners have applied for loans through the CARES Act, and say their banker, landlord and creditors have been very understanding during an especially stressful time for small businesses.
In the meantime, Kocina and Pomije say they are keeping their spirits up by doing everything they can to continue to be a bright spot in the community.
“We don’t know when we will be able to open our doors again and see each other in person,” Pomjie said. “In the meantime, doing business virtually behind closed doors is something we can control and a way we can bring some light into people’s lives.”