During the COVID-19 pandemic, many small business owners have had to make tough decisions about how to operate amid the chaos. But despite all the challenges, local business owners are still forging ahead and finding inspiration in the fact that we’re all in this together.
We recently caught up with Debra and Ross Hunter, owners of Provisions St. Louis, to learn how they’re adapting to the “new normal.”
What do you love most about your business?
Debra Hunter: Most definitely our customers. First and foremost, PROVISIONS ST. LOUIS is about people. We relish the interaction and shared experience of conversations, explorations, and discoveries. Our store experience is more than the goods — it is the sum of the parts, the conversations, recommendations, and stories.
How has your business been impacted by COVID-19?
Debra Hunter: Prior to the COVID-19 experience, we were an onsite brick-and-mortar business only… so it was quite a blow to have our doors closed, sort of an emotional and very stressful roller coaster ride, without an end in sight.
With that said, we had to look at the big picture and we were confident that being closed and keeping people off the streets was in everyone’s best interest.
How are you pivoting your business model to accommodate employees, customers, and vendors during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Debra Hunter: In terms of employees, it’s just the two of us so we are very lucky in that respect. As far as vendors go, we started holding off placing orders around February 1, as we were mindful of the growing COVID-19 effects outside of the states and there was simply too much uncertainty about how it would effect our country and our business. We are currently preparing for new orders and deliveries — but it is a very fine line to walk as we of course want to be sensitive to our customers’ psychological mood, their wants, needs, and financial circumstances.
Our biggest pivot and one we are very proud of, is the addition of ecommerce to our business model. The website PROVISIONSSTL.COM (a labor of love) is up and running, but the hardest part is actually creating or conveying the ‘ambiance’… the special camaraderie that is shared when we’re together with customers in the store. We’re really proud of our site though (including it’s imperfections), and it is growing and evolving everyday.
How can community members continue to support your business during this challenging time?
Debra Hunter: Follow us and stay in touch on social media, especially Instagram @provisions_STL. We love communicating with Instagram visitors. Visit our website and sign up for our Newsletter announcements about in store events and happenings.
What are you doing to think proactively about your business when the economy is reopened?
Debra Hunter: We will follow St. Louis /CDC guidelines regarding masks and gloves and practice physical distancing, while limiting the number of customers in the store at one time.
Main Street businesses, both local restaurants and retailers, are the heart and soul of our neighborhood — creating the vitality and sense of community we all love, and we look forward to being a part of it and supporting it once we we are back to together again.
*If* you have any free time, what are you reading, listening to, creating, watching, cooking, baking, or doing to pass the time indoors? What are you doing for health and wellness?
Debra Hunter: COOKING, BAKING, and EATING! We’ve been listening to NPR /St. Louis Public Radio, watching old movies such as The Thin Man Series, some great rock n roll documentaries, we love watching Salt Fat Acid Heat & Chef’s Table, and are in the middle of Mrs. America on Hulu and Hollywood on Netflix (and YES — we watched TIGER KING!).
We have been discovering the walking paths of Forest Park, which are simply incredible and we have been distance visiting on our terrace with friends from our building. And of course, ZOOM parties with friends and family.