When the pandemic forced us to close down temporarily in March of 2020, we had to shift the way we do business. Our showroom was closed from March 26 through June 8. We quickly learned how to do Zoom calls to meet with customers. We started posting some inventory to our social media channels in a semi-shoppable format (we now have online shopping through our website). And when people were allowed to leave home for more than essential tasks, we started a curbside service. All of these were new avenues for Johnson Jewelers. Today we are going to share more about the big changes we made to the back of our building to support the curbside service.
When indoor activities were suspended, every business was affected but the impact on small retail businesses was huge. Curbside service became the norm in 2020, mostly for restaurants and large retailers. But we were able to adapt our business to enable curbside for our customers who needed to drop off repair work or pick up items. We started to offer this in early May 2020. Customers could park at the back of our store and we would come out to their car to meet them and take in their repairs or deliver their items. However, the back of our store was never really meant to be a customer facing location so we began to think of ways to make it more functional and inviting.
At this time there were various small business loans and grants being given out. Main Street America and The Hartford teamed up for the HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program. Grants of $5,000 – $15,000 were awarded to 98 brick-and-mortar small businesses across the country. Funds were to help these businesses respond and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and help to revitalize and strengthen older and historic downtown commercial districts. Grant proposals were judged based on: feasibility; the extent to which the grant will help address an acute business need or help a business owner implement innovative solutions to address COVID-19-related challenges; opportunity for other businesses to learn from work; how the grant would help improve the viability of business; the business’s commitment to giving back to their community and/or community engagement; and strength of letters of recommendation and supporting documents. We applied and were thrilled to learn we were one of the grant recipients (only 4 in WA state) in December 2020. This grant would help cover the cost to create a more inviting and functional curbside space.
There were months of planning and getting permits. Previously just a parking space and employee entrance, we modified the space with a new awning, some inviting planters to freshen up what is essentially an alley way, and new paint on the building that was much overdo. We had to demolish the old structure, which was a very old awning that was so tall it provided no escape from the Pacific Northwest rain. We had a custom door built. We got new signage to put on the new awning. And added lighting so that we would have better visibility in the evening, especially since it gets dark so early in the winter!
The final project was completed in October 2021. The new awning is a nice structure that welcomes you to our space and provides relief from the rain. Now if you truly stay in your car for curbside, the awning is more functional to us as employees as we come outside to meet you at your car. But if you do come out of your car to our back door, you will benefit from the awning too. Big thanks to so many vendors for their work in making this space a reality. Magnussen Designs for canopy design, Starboard Door for our new door, Excel Electric for wiring, Vassey Nursery for the planters and plants, Impressive Signs and Graphics for our new sign, PCS Structural Solutions for engineering, and SF Construction and Maintenance for all the general contracting work.
While this may have been born out of the pandemic, we will continue to offer curbside service for our customers. It is nice that we can offer it as an option rather than a necessity. If you have a quick drop off or pick up, or simply don’t want to get out of your car, you can use this service. People have found this especially useful when they have little children and bringing them into a fine jewelry store can be stressful. We just ask that you call ahead of time so we know when to expect you.
I think we all grew and were stretched these past two years. There were some strange and trying times. We can’t thank our customers enough for keeping us afloat through this unprecedented time in Johnson Jewelers’ 124 year history. Whether you make a big purchase, bring in items for repair, engage with our social media, or leave a kind review, we appreciate your support.