GREENSBORO, N.C. — When Jenn Graf unlocks the front door of her boutique on South Elm Street in Greensboro, you can tell she feels at home.
“We sell things you can’t get, anywhere else,” she says with a smile, showing off vintage clothes from more recent decades all the way back to the time of Downton Abbey, at Vintage to Vogue at 530 S. Elm.
“We not only sell vintage, we sell vintage-inspired. We have purses, belts, broaches, necklaces, earrings – you name it, we have it,” Graf said. “And seeing that we’re in the 20s, Great Gatsby, so we have these beautiful, vintage flapper dresses.”
But, like so many small businesses, the dizzying flurry of government orders to stay home have rocked her business that relies on downtown foot traffic.
“How am I going to stay open?” said Graf, who hasn’t paid herself in weeks. “I was more worried about my employees, as well. They rely on my paychecks just as I rely on my sales and I can’t pay them if I don’t have sales. So, that’s when we started thinking outside the box.”
As a trained fashion designer, Graf thought there had to be other ways to get her products in front of the people who were no longer leaving their homes.
“We started selling products online,” she said. “We’re selling on Instagram and Facebook. We’re actually doing a live segment of what we’re selling so we’re interacting with the people watching it. It’s been really great. A lot of my friends who have stepped up, we have had strangers who have ordered some products.”
That’s been nice, but it may not be enough for many businesses like hers in the long run.
“I’d like to see some grants offered to small businesses. There are the low-interest loans and they help, but in the end it just adds more debt,” she said.
It’s not just that she doesn’t have tons of cash stored away – it’s pretty much all in her store – it’s also to preserve the special dynamic small businesses provide.
“The difference between a small business and a big business is you become one with your team – they are my family – I care about them like I care about a best friend or a sister. So, I worry about them, I stay up at night worrying about them,” Graf said.
See some of the products she offers in this Small Business Spotlight.