The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



What is it like to be a local SLO store owner during the Covid-19 lockdown?


  With covid-19, social isolation has led to many closures of businesses across the United States. Stores considered non-essential are struggling to stay afloat and many have even gone out of business. This not only affects the store owners’ lives, but the employees as well, leaving millions unemployed leading to the downfall of our economy. 

  In San Luis Obispo we are seeing this at a more personal scale. If you were to drive through the streets of downtown over the weekend you would see almost all stores are closed and seldom people are outside walking around. 

  To put this into perspective, Cherisse Sweeney, the owner of a local design and home furnishing business, Basalt, talked to Expressions about her own experience as a store owner, during this time. 

Expressions: How have you adjusted in order to continue selling your merchandise?

SLO small business owner Cherisse Sweeney: As a retailer in the heart of Downtown SLO, I rely heavily on daily foot traffic seven days a week. I had to get creative on how to bring my showroom to people.  I have been facetiming with clients, stretched my knowledge of technology to keep uploading current inventory that I own, and highlight products that people want/need in their homes during this time to bring them comfort.

Expressions: How have you adapted to using the internet as your only way to sell items?

Sweeney: At my age I’ve not recognized the benefits and influence of Instagram and Facebook.  IG in particular has been an amazing tool to be able to tag products. Fortunately I had invested some resources this year to learn about the interface with IG and a shoppable website. I had hired a consultant to build the webstore and had an intern loading product for me up until the week we had to shut down. I quickly had to learn how to do it myself over the course of this closure.  It all feels very less intimidating and I’m so glad to know. 

Expressions: How do you think the local government, of San Luis Obispo, should help the businesses that are suffering from Covid-19?

Sweeney: The Downtown Association has been amazing. They have a smart group of young professionals that have allowed some of us older brick and mortar business owners to rely on their social media knowhow. With every post if we tag them they’ve been reposting and sharing on their social media channels. They were the first (and only) organization or local agency to actually call and email me as a show of solidarity and support. They genuinely want to know how they can help and are doing it.  They’ve posted daily supporting local businesses Downtown sharing what we are each doing to keep on keeping on as best we can.

Expressions: Have you felt a sense of unity between you and other store owners during this time? 

Sweeney: I have. It’s been a vulnerable time for us all. Some more than others and nobody’s been afraid to share or ask for help. We’ve banded together to help each other with the tools and resources we are able to share with each other. I know for me, each $2 I earn I’ve spent $1 dollar with my neighboring businesses to support them. Any essential or comfort item I’ve needed I make a greater conscious effort to buy from a small business. Except TP, I did get my latest pack from Costco.

Expressions: As a community how do you think we can help Basalt and other local businesses, while our country is on lockdown?  

Sweeney: It’s a good time to develop new habits of supporting local businesses not just now but from now on.  It’s an opportunity to be more aware of what we buy and the origin it comes from.  There are so many small businesses that not everyone knows about.  Share about them and keep sharing. I was shocked how many people didn’t know about our SLO Co-Op Grocery.  They’ve been beautifully stocked with local produce and healthy food and I’ve really enjoyed spreading the word.  Sharing favorite places or services makes a really big difference. 

About – Basalt Interiors

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