For Meredith McNulty, the Covid pandemic gave her new art and jewelry shop a trial by fire, even while there was ice outside.
Last December, she opened Mermaid and Moon Boutique, where she sells clothing, local art and her own handmade jewelry.
But as the Covid-related health restrictions tightened four months later, she decided to close in March, as did many other Yellowknife businesses.
“The most frustrating thing for me was that I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do,” McNulty said. “I kind of fall into this grey area of being a retail shop, but also an art gallery. All the messaging said (that) art galleries have to close, but there was nothing that really said whether or not shops had to close. (But) I did end up closing for a little over a month.”
The closure gouged 78 per cent, or several thousand dollars, out of her revenue, although she didn’t have to lay anyone off because she runs the shop on her own.
“It wasn’t great for someone who was new coming into the market,” she said of the tumultuous experience.
Her 47 Street store was even quieter during the closure times of March and April because she had to stop the art classes she had been holding in the basement since February. McNulty’s mother hosted the classes, teaching painting to about 20 people per session.
The uncertainty of those weeks were the hardest part of the pandemic for her and she wondered if she would be able to stay open or not.
“If anything changes, are they going to make us close again? I think it’s just never knowing what’s going to happen next,” she said.
But McNulty acknowledges that the slow weeks were something of a blessing in disguise as they pushed her to promote her business on social media and connect with more people.
“(That) helped bring traffic to my website,” she said. “Then as I got orders, I was offering delivery. I would just drive (out) and drop them off with touchless drop off. That seemed to do really well. I definitely had a number of supporters that found me during that time.”
While the financial returns from the online sales weren’t huge, they put McNulty “on the radar” and she when she reopened in April she was happy to see some of her new online supporters come into her store.
Even though most of her business still comes from the bricks and mortar shop, the online sales have been steadily increasing.
The painting classes have resumed as well, with about 12-15 students attending, to allow for appropriate social distancing.
McNulty feels that the connections she made with the Yellowknife community during and after the lockdown made all the difference for her shop.
“If local shoppers hadn’t come in after the pandemic, if no one had known and continued to come back, then I might have had to close my doors for good. And I haven’t had to do that, so that’s amazing,” she said.
“I think a lot of businesses focus on collaboration and building connections with others. I think a lot of people…are wanting to support local now more than before, because Covid saw so many things close and people don’t want to see small businesses closed. (That) is really positive for my business model, because it’s almost entirely local.”