While managing retail has not been easy in the current environment, running a consignment store comes with even more challenges. Amy Atwell, owner of the The Painted Mermaid, spoke with us about overcoming the hurdles while staying focused on the future.
How are you keeping the store going while not being able to have on site customers?
So much continues to go out in times like this when so little is coming in, that it has been interesting to say the least! Having been through Hurricane Florence, I at least felt a little better prepared to take certain steps earlier in anticipation of what the long-term ramifications are likely to be. This time, the focus has been to get the fabulous ladies who work with me safe at home and items back to consignors and artists so that they can all better focus on themselves and their businesses while I shifted gears on my end. The Facebook and Instagram pages have grown and I love the interaction there. Our newly re-opened website, thepaintedmermaid.com, has been getting some attention and there are some big changes in the works. I am looking forward to getting us back open - in whatever form that may take - as soon as possible.
What have you learned in dealing with this that will help you going forward. Personally and business-wise.
Living through this has amplified for me how in the grand scheme of things what very little control we really have with what happens in our lives. Being forced not to slow down, but to STOP has really put me in a different place from a focus and priority standpoint. The fact that NONE of that was ‘my fault’ freed me up sooner to move faster through the different stages I’m sure we have all experienced on our own terms (fear, grief, etc), and provided some clarity as to how things need to be going forward. I am scaling back on certain aspects of the business and working toward staying better focused on its roots - the people, the creativity, the fun. Often, bigger is just bigger and with bigger, important things tend to get lost in the shuffle. It’s time to change that.
How has the community responded to your changed way of doing business?
Home schooling my little one, while building a house, finishing my book “10 Little Rules for Mermaids,” and addressing all the various business aspects of the impacts to the business has made regular business hours impossible. Working by appointment has been a wonderful distraction. The opportunity to see, speak and smile with others who love and appreciate The Painted Mermaid as much as I do has been invaluable to surviving all of this! Folks have really been great with offering words of support through the Facebook page. Consignors have been very gracious regarding taking back items on their own. Folks have all stepped up even more than the norm with donating food and bras/feminine hygiene to the charities we support. I’ve received numerous offers of help with the bringing in of my studio from its separate location to the main store. I really can’t stress enough just how fabulous both our immediate and long-distance communities have been.
How has your experience as a small business owner up to this point helped you deal with the changes coming your way? Where did you learn your most important lessons? What would you share with others as advice?
Thirty-five years of retail experience can teach you a lot. I’ve learned some amazing things from the people I’ve worked with and for, but NOTHING could have TRULY prepared ANY of us for THIS! My years as a business owner have taught me the importance of being able to reinvent, recreate and reincarnate the face of your business while keeping true to YOUR core values and design. Times change, markets change, would-be competitors come along, hurricanes and, evidently, pandemics happen. Staying ahead of the curve is huge. Being able to spin on a dime and shift gears is huge. Never get too comfortable or take for granted the blessing of owning your own anything.
I’m seeing from your social media posts that it looks like you have a book in the works. Please tell me about that project. Has this helped move it forward faster? Changed it?
I do have a book in the works - in fact the pre-sale debut is June 7th. It will be available through thepaintedmermaid.com and the publisher’s website, 10littlerules.com as well as Amazon. I connected with publisher Carol Pearson after her reading some of blogs on The Painted Mermaid Facebook page. I loved her mission behind the 10 Little Rules instantly, and the fact that she had ‘10 Little Rules for Mermaids’ as a working title for years seemed like undeniable fate. The book actually ‘spilled out’ as we were going under the shelter at home directive. As I was working through my thoughts on paper, a mentorship with local best-selling author Stanley Spain strengthened and developed. That partnership in itself has been invaluable. The time with new and long-time friends on the phone during the pandemic has certainly strengthened and enhanced some of my existing personal view, and that is indeed reflected in the book. I have personally grown from the experience and am very proud of the results. I am so grateful to have been invited and welcomed into the 10 Little Rules Community, and I am just so super excited to share it with the world.
Please share anything else you’d like. I’m finding our small business community is a role model for dealing with difficult times. People need your kind of optimism.
I have been truly impressed with the grace and awareness of which so many of my peers in the community have handled these bizarre and difficult times. The efforts of teachers, medical workers, food banks, domestic violence volunteers and staff and those eager to contribute to their cause have been beyond amazing. Clearly there is more to overcome and a long haul ahead, but I have every faith this community in particular will come through stronger for having lived through it.