A fire that heavily damaged a neighboring restaurant in early October could have wiped out Farmhouse owner Bev Norris’ business permanently.
Farmhouse sustained smoke and water damage because of the fire at Main Street Mediterranean Cafe, and while that may not sound bad because it doesn’t necessarily mean structural damage to the store, it was pretty devastating to the shop.
“It was almost 100% damage (to the merchandise),” Norris said. “We had a lot of linen fabrics so it’s all gone. We saved a few pieces of furniture, but everything that was fabric, paper, leathers, even bread boards and stuff like that we couldn’t keep because (the smoke smell and water) sets in, and then of course you can’t sell it because it smells.”
Despite the losses she sustained, Small Business Saturday proved one thing: Don’t count Norris and her shop out just yet.
Although Farmhouse and Crave Pie Studio, another downtown Duluth business that sustained smoke and water damage because of the fire, could not sell their wares in their brick-and-mortar stores, they still made a go at making money on the one day of the Thanksgiving holiday period devoted to supporting businesses such as theirs. Norris had merchandise in storage that wasn’t damaged by the fire so she still has some items to sell.
The businesses did popup sales in a parking lot on Duluth’s Main Street. While Crave Pie Studio still had its trailer to sell pies out of, Norris had to get a little creative for Farmhouse.
She converted a PODS storage container into a small store.
And she was a hit on Small Business Saturday. She estimated hundreds of shoppers came by throughout the day to purchase items from her. That surpassed her expectations for the day.
“We lost the entire (fall season) so we recouped a little bit of it,” Norris said. “It’s not what it would have been if we had been in the shop, but it was good. It was a really good Saturday.
“And I think it was crucial to be down here too for the community. We had a lot of support from all of the stores and our customers so it was just an amazing day. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.”
Longtime customer Jamie Cross raved about the pop-up location as she stopped by to check it out Saturday afternoon. Cross was on her way back to Alpharetta from Hilton Head, but wanted to stop by to support Norris.
“You guys did — I’m speechless,” Cross said. “Who could have though a storage container could look this good?”
Norris, who will operate her pop-up store on Main Street each Friday and Saturday until Dec. 20, said the experience of having to operate without her store — it’s not expected to be ready to re-open until January or February — has given her a new perspective on Small Business Saturday. The response she has received from the community helped shape that new perspective, too.
“You know you have a community, but you don’t realize until something like that happens how amazing the community can be,” Norris said.
Crave Pie Studio owner Briana Carson also said the community support on Small Business Saturday was impressive. She had 150 pies to sell on Saturday and sold out in less than five hours. Like Farmhouse, Crave Pie Studio will be doing pop-ups on Saturdays in downtown Duluth through the Christmas season.
“It was absolutely everything to us to be out here on Small Business Saturday, because it’s just really important to have a presence on Main Street during this important time of year,” Carson said. “The city has been so generous in working with us to accommodate us so that we could pop up, and then mostly our customers who came out to support us today.
“It was just vitally important to be here.”