Deep in the mind of many entrepreneurs, there is always a feeling that a shadow is lurking around the corner. Perhaps it is because one never forgets the early days or the times that on the other side of you and the hard place, the rock feels like a down pillow. It is also likely that people who go into business for themselves have an increased appetite for the struggle, for the sabotage, for the esoteric Darwinian experience of “making it.” When retail stores began closing everywhere in March, it became clear that the lurking shadows were cast by something so large it seemed to eclipse the sun.
While everyone in this country went into a moment of paralysis, within a week, I noticed some really interesting things happening at the store. People had nowhere to go, no events to attend, but they wanted new clothes. I spent most days driving around, delivering and picking up from homes and even considered painting my car brown to make it official. (I would possibly draw the line at brown, polyester, knee-length shorts, however I do like those belts.) And after that, our online business, which truthfully had been an albatross of a project for months, was suddenly gaining a little traction. Customers in Texas but also in the hardest hit places like California, New York and Washington were buying puff-sleeve blouses, embroidered midi dresses and chewed-up Japanese denim, if only to wear in their living rooms, backyards and on Zoom.
Initially, I thought it was a bit self-medicating, maybe a few people out there were wanting a salve to soothe the anxiety, to build in something to look forward to when the future seemed so unsavory. But then I realized that amid the firing squad of information, data, experts, fear and homeschooling, people just wanted to feel normal. And more derivative than that, people couldn’t survive without feeling a sense of dignity. While the coronavirus could stop our country or even the world in its tracks, it could not stop the seasons from changing.
To be clear, we deeply nosedived off of a financial trajectory which would have been historic for the store. But it was such a privilege to see the rise and blooming of the human spirit who never gave up on the beautiful season, who continued to hope for normal, who made the very best of a terrible time. I certainly don’t take our resulting economic calamity lightly, nor do I ignore the millions of people who lost their jobs and livelihoods. But whether they were buying expensive Italian linen sundresses or starting an herb garden or learning how to cross-stitch or becoming a Fortnite champion, people found a way to not only survive but to discover something new about themselves and about life.
No one would wish a circumstance like this again, but to all the people who bought extra meals from their favorite restaurants, to those who stockpiled cocktail dresses to make pancakes, to those who kept believing in community and camaraderie, it has been an honor.