COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard.
Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale for these smaller businesses.
When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor.
That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores.
All weekend long throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat.
Here’s what some small business owners had to say:
83 Main St., Stony Brook/14 Wall St., Huntington
Madison’s Niche, with four locations throughout Long Island, is a lifestyle boutique that sells everything from baby onesies to UGG boots to home décor.
At the Stony Brook Village Center store, director Carolynn Mertens said that they did “fantastic” this past holiday weekend.
“We’re up in sales,” she said. “We’re very grateful to be up, and we didn’t think it was going to happen, but we’re very lucky.”
From Friday to Sunday, Mertens said she saw dozens of people shopping with their holiday lists in hand, while a lot of people were even shopping for themselves.
“I think people want to support small businesses,” she said. “They don’t want to see any more empty stores in their community and are trying to keep our mom-and-pop stores alive.”
Compared to a big box store or the mall, Mertens believes that customers feel more comfortable shopping in her stores.
“Our stores are easy to shop in,” she said. “We can maintain social distancing and we are constantly disinfecting.”
Morolay Children’s Boutique
302 New York Ave., Huntington
This holiday season is looking a little different for Morolay Children’s Boutique on New York Avenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Under these unique circumstances, we’re fully by appointment,” said owner Leah Casabona.
But that works in the customers favor, because it provides an even more one-on-one shopping experience for people looking to come in.
“The customer service here is much better than big chain stores,” she said. “We personally deal with our customers and live in the community.”
For the past 21 years, Morolay has been a staple to the Huntington community, known for selling special occasion wear to local children.
“If you support small business, that sales tax goes back into our own local community,” she said. “And, the uniqueness of Huntington makes it a desirable place to live.”
Casabona said that shopping small is the way to go this and every other year.
“We need to be more conscious to help small businesses now more than ever,” she said.
Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls
267 Main St., Huntington
Lily Bergh, owner of Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls, said she has been in the business for more than 30 years.
This holiday season, she’s reminding people that shopping in-store is part of the magic that is Christmas.
“It was so nice seeing the kids with their big smiles this weekend,” she said. “They were making lists for Santa while walking around the store.”
Since opening in 1981, Bergh said that three generations now have been walking through her front door to buy presents during the holidays.
“The kids will come in with their grandmas and say with excitement, ‘Wow, a toy store!’”
And that reaction isn’t the same when a child walks through a toy aisle at a larger retailer.
“You’re just a number at a big box store,” she said. “And, I think it’s important to actually be able to pick up or touch a toy.”
Bergh said that the last nine months have been hard for her and the business, but Saturday and Sunday had a great turnout.
“It was awesome,” she said. “But we need more to make up for the four months we were closed. We want to stay in Huntington. It’s important.”
She said her toy store is a “wonderland” and strives to bring good memories to little ones visiting inside. She hopes that more people will continue to shop at her store, especially now.
“I don’t care who you shop from, but you need to shop local,” she said.
89 Commack Road, Commack
TandyWear has been in business for over 20 years and owner Tandy Jeckel said shopping at her store is a safe and fun experience, especially during these unprecedented times.
“We’re on a first-name basis with our customers,” she said. “You’ll get a personalized experience — we have an amazing team, amazing stylists, we’ll find your style.”
Jeckel said that this past Saturday was the best Small Business Saturday they have ever had.
“It was amazing,” she said. “We had so much foot traffic. It was great.”
Known for their dressy wear, comfy wear, going out wear and trendy wear, the store has something for everyone.
“We get new styles daily, and we sell masks to match,” she said.
Throughout the holiday weekend, Jeckel said she offered doorbusters and 20% off the entire store.
Jeckel thinks people are gravitating toward the smaller shops because the big box stores are also competing with online retailers and are closing due to them.
“The big box stores aren’t around anymore,” she said. “You have a few small chain stores, and then us.”