Victoria Stores Reopening


As we all know, Minnesota has begun to reopen along with 49 other states despite not meeting the guidelines provided by the White House and CDC. Each individual will have mixed feelings about this. Some may feel it is safe and in the best interest of the economy. Others may feel that if we haven’t met the requirements, then we should not be opening. There is no guidebook with steps of how to handle the Coronavirus. Small businesses have felt the impact of not being able to have their doors open to the public in a traditional way. Downtown Victoria is filled with small businesses. Not only is Victoria my home, but it is also the home of Holy Family.

I decided to reach out to some small business owners in Victoria and ask for their reflection and input on the current situation. Naomi Loeslie is the owner of White Birch House in Downtown Victoria. Her store has thousands of unique home products. I asked her what the most challenging obstacle was for her store when they initially had to close. She said the hardest thing for her was “I was never an online seller I have always loved the in-store experience. When I created my business plan, there was no part of having an online store.” She needed to keep some income flowing into her business, so she focused on about thirty items to sell online. “I have thousands of different items in the store, so it makes it very difficult to have a representation of your store online” this shows the importance of small businesses. No small business is alike—everything from the location, to the employees to the products. Small businesses have a unique characteristic; the feeling of community. When you step into White Birch House, you feel a sense of belonging, and that is what we all should cherish. Naomi has gone above and beyond to make sure you feel safe when you are in the store. Currently, only six customers are allowed in the store at a time which is well below their capacity. Along with these measures, Naomi has an employee who works with her, and they have been following all social distancing recommendations. For instance, usually, there will be one person at the counter checking you out, and another person wrapping your items, that has all changed only one employee is at the counter and credit cards are currently the only payment method being accepted. Naomi is an incredible woman and is a valued store owner of the Victoria community. Next time you are Downtown Victoria make sure to stop in and support her!

Patricia Sjulson is the owner of Winnie Lu, which is a Minnesota lifestyle boutique in Downtown Victoria. She sells handmade products made right here in Minnesota! Patricia said the most challenging thing is, “Financially, having to close a business that is reliant on customers walking through your door.” She estimates that about 80%-90% of her business is people purchasing products in the store. This number may shock some especially given that in today’s world, online shopping is extremely popular, but in most cases, that’s not what small businesses are about. Small businesses are much more than a store; rather, they are about building friendships and connections, places of gather, and most of all, it is what makes a town someone’s home. At Winnie Lu, you walk in, and there is a sense of relief, this feeling of being able to relax, and according to Patricia, that is exactly her goal. Patricia had a very clear message that she wants everyone to hear “Just because you see that orders are being shipped out and items becoming sold out doesn’t mean that you are thriving. And even though someone owns their own business and it is still open in the sense that in some way products are being purchased doesn’t automatically mean you’re successful and you are doing well. And most importantly, despite a business getting sales and being open doesn’t mean that they will necessarily succeed.” Winnie Lu has taken drastic measures to ensure the safety of each individual shopping is maintained. Starting May 27th, 2020, Winnie Lu will have limited hours and days, allowing everyone to ease into the new guidelines. At this moment, only two customers will be allowed in the shop at a time, you must sanitize your hands on the way in, a mask if required, and credit cards are the only payment method currently being accepted. In between customers, all surfaces, including door handles and the front counter will be sanitized. Hand sanitizer and masks will be provided, but you are highly encouraged to bring your own mask if you have one. All store information will be shared on Instagram and Facebook. Patricia is an amazing and talented woman and has made sure each customer feels at ease and safe while shopping. She will continue to do contactless curbside pick-up, local delivery, and shipping. Patricia is encouraging people to continue to shop online when possible due to the limited hours. Next time you get a chance to go to Downtown Victoria make sure you stop by Winnie Lu and support this fantastic small business.

Throughout this process of interviewing different small business owners, I have gained some valuable information. The biggest piece is that each owner wants to be able to serve the community, but know there will need to be sacrifices made in order to do it in a safe way. Holy Family could not be more blessed to belong to this community. We each need to do our part and support them. If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article is that we cannot allow these small businesses to disappear.