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A day in the life of a store owner during a pandemic

Marielle Segarra Jun 11, 2020
Heard on:
Maris Johansson is trying to keep her brand-new store afloat during the pandemic. Photo: Laura Schmalstieg

A day in the life of a store owner during a pandemic

Marielle Segarra Jun 11, 2020
Heard on:
Maris Johansson is trying to keep her brand-new store afloat during the pandemic. Photo: Laura Schmalstieg

This pandemic caught a lot of people in between — just ending something or starting something. Somehow, life has to go on anyway.

Maris Johansson, a first-time store owner in Denver, is trying to fulfill a lifelong dream at one of the worst times imaginable.

Her store, Broomtail, sells children’s clothing and toys, like hobbyhorses handmade from yarn. It’s also meant to be a place for moms to gather.

She got the idea when she was pregnant with her son, Logan, who’s now 3½.

Broomtail opened for the first time in mid-May, after the state lifted its pandemic restrictions.

This is Johansson’s diary.

Friday, May 22

9 p.m.

I just got the kids down and came outside, because I wanted to read this email that I saw from a customer. She says:

“Hello! My friend and I would love to make an appointment to shop tomorrow. Do you have anything, 11:30ish? She is newly pregnant and I would love her first baby shopping experience to be at your adorable store. I’ve been stalking your Instagram and it looks just beautiful. Thank you so much.”

Listen to Johansson read an email from a customer:

So I’ve probably read it about five times already, and I’ll probably read it a couple more times before I go to bed, instead of, you know, scrolling through the news on my phone, and I’m hoping that will help me sleep tonight. Because these small things that feel normal mean so much to me right now.

Saturday, May 23

10 a.m.

Listen to her say goodbye to her family and leave for the store:

10:30 a.m.

I actually cleaned all of the counters last night before I left, but I’m doing it again, because I just feel like the smell of cleaning solution is reassuring to people. 

Photo: Laura Schmalstieg

This is usually when I put my mask on, when I’m starting to move to the front of the store to vacuum. I just feel like if someone’s walking by, even if I’m in here by myself, I want to have my mask on. Again, it’s one of those little signs to people that I’m being careful and that I care about their safety and my safety. I just feel like any little thing could make someone decide not to come in.

This is when I kind of have to brace myself, because I’m still getting used to wearing a mask for seven hours a day. So, I get my last kind of free deep breaths in, and then the mask goes on and it’s go time.

11:45 a.m.

Just finished with a customer! It was the woman who reached out over email that her friend is expecting in November. They came in together, they both bought some things, and they were very complimentary. They thought that I’d be successful long term, and those words mean a lot to me right now. So I’m feeling good. I think today is going to be a good day.

2 p.m.

Photo: Laura Schmalstieg

All right, it’s been an hour, no one has been in the store. I haven’t even seen many people walking by out front. So this is typical in my day, like, I’ll be excited, and then, you know, I’m kind of feeling in the dumps right now.

I know this is all part of it. And maybe in normal times, I would appreciate the breaks in the day and I’d feel good about being able to get other stuff done, but all I can think about now is what if the rest of the day is like this and no one comes in.

And, you know, if I see anyone out front, I’m always trying to strike the balance of being excited and looking welcoming, but not looking like I’m too desperate or I’m bored. It’s just a weird dance, or act that I have to play.

3:50 p.m.

I had four sales today — not horrible. I’ve yet to have a zero sales day, so that’s something to be grateful for. But still, you know, just very mediocre. I think the last two hours no one came in.

Listen to Johansson’s closing thoughts:

I’m gonna shut down and try to switch gears and go home and see the kids. I never want them to feel, or my husband to feel, like I’m here wasting time that I could be spending with them. So I usually try to keep it really upbeat and just kind of keep a smile on for them. But yeah, it wasn’t great.

Photo: Laura Schmalstieg

Johansson just crunched the numbers, and she’s not making quite enough in sales to cover her costs — but she’s close. She’s prepared to dip into her savings to keep the business going as long as she can.

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