EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is one in a series on how Fairborn small businesses have weathered and persevered through 2020. If you own a Fairborn business and would like to be featured in this series, contact London Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBORN — Now in the month of December, a Nativity scene sits in its front window of My Mother’s Memories. The figures greet visitors to the home décor and antique shop in downtown Fairborn. Like many retail businesses, fewer in-person visitors will stop by to see them this holiday season, but owner Jane Helton says that, in many ways, she still feels blessed.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Helton said. “We were hitting our peak right before the pandemic, and we came back learning a whole new approach to business.”
The “cute little shop on Main Street” specializes in home decor, primitives, and antiques. Many of the wares inside the little shop are handcrafted, including t-shirts, candles, and upcycled jewelry. In time for the holidays, Christmas decorations fill the store, nearly from floor to ceiling.
Helton has expanded her business to Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy, which she says has driven sales since the shutdown in March. Nine months after the start of the pandemic, sales are just as strong as they were at the beginning of the year, though getting there was no easy task.
“We’re one of the blessed ones.” Helton said. “We have a strong customer base that support us.”
Social media has been a powerful tool for keeping small businesses like Helton’s alive. However, using online platforms comes with an entirely different set of skills.
“It’s not just a walk-in business like we used to do, it’s always thinking outside the box. And that is our marketing; instead of just doing a newspaper ad or an ad online, now it’s all social media, every day.”
Helton and her family conduct daily sales online, primarily via Facebook Marketplace and Etsy. She and her daughter livestream on their Facebook page every other week.
Before the pandemic, 75 percent of Helton’s revenue came from walk-in sales, with only 25 percent online. Now that percentage is completely flipped.
“We do different avenues for different clientele for different products, whereas before we could just put it all out there and they come in and see it. Etsy is one kind of customer. Facebook is for most of our regulars and ‘everyday people’ followers.”
And it’s a lot of work. Running a small business means working at the shop “from daylight until dark,” in Helton’s words, then going home at night to work on the multifarious social media pages.
During the shutdown, it almost didn’t pay off.
“There were days when we would have hardly anything, and then someone would buy a $200 gift card. And they knew they were buying, not knowing if we were going to open back up or not,” she said. “If we shut down again, I don’t know if we’ll survive that.”
Now that the storefront is back in business, Helton says her customers have expressed that they want to see her store and others like it stick around.
“Since we’ve reopened, we hear a ton of people say ‘I’m not going to Target or Walmart, we’re just going to small stores.’ People, especially in our town, really want to keep the small businesses alive.”
Helton also credits the support of her family for keeping My Mother’s Memories open. Many of her children and their spouses are doctors, nurses, or essential workers, but they contribute to the family business in whatever way they can.
Helton’s son comes up with online marketing ideas, while her husband comes in to clean and disinfect multiple times a day.
“It’s brought family a lot closer,” Helton said. ‘I know everybody says that, but we are very much blessed to have all of our family helping in one way or the other. We don’t know what tomorrow brings but we’re not sitting around stressing over it either, because of the blessings we already have.”
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.