ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — You might say Valerie Jackson comes from stalwart stock.
When her paternal grandmother recognized the rumblings of war in 1930s Italy, she didn’t wait around for her husband to come home from the U.S., where he had started a grocery store with a relative. Instead, Jackson’s grandmother packed up and came to him – all eight children in tow.
And on her mother’s side, Jackson’s ancestors’ arrival in the U.S. was prompted by another bit of calamity – the Irish potato famine.
When Jackson realized in March that her store, Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists at 7600 Menaul NE, would need to close under restrictions aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19, she knew the business was looking at hard times. But she wasn’t about to despair – it’s just not the way she was raised.
“Your heart fell to your feet, like, ‘Gee, am I going to survive this?'” said Jackson of the time leading up to the closures. “… Dad always said, ‘If times get tough, just think a way around it.'”
Jackson’s store – which she co-owns with husband Charlie – was one of many that recently was allowed to reopen for in-person shopping, with a number of new restrictions in place.
In the May 18 Business Outlook, the Journal put out a call inviting New Mexicans who work at or own a business that recently reopened to submit pictures of the first few days back. The response – a selection of which is printed in today’s Outlook – offers a glimpse into the world of New Mexico’s small business community.
Many businesses throughout the state – and the rest of the country – remain shuttered. Those that have reopened aren’t back to normal yet – there’s no way they could be, because the virus is still spreading, still a threat to life and health.
In the world of business, that means workplaces don’t look the same, and businesses are having to shift their models to fit customers’ new behaviors.
Joanie Griffin, CEO of Albuquerque-based Sunny505 communications firm, wrote in an email that while a she and three others returned to the office March 16, the rest of her 16 staffers are still telecommuting. She submitted a photo of herself and a colleague on a video conference call with the rest of her team, still at home.
“Certainly my first time ever leading a meeting in a face mask,” Griffin wrote.
Rachel Langer of Red Rock Roasters, whose company recently reopened for curbside pickup, wrote her business never fully shuttered as coffee roasters were considered essential. The company’s direct sales to business is currently down about 75%. But that wasn’t the only change.
“In general our direct-to-customer sales have quadrupled,” wrote Langer, who submitted a photo of herself standing amid stacks of boxes ready for shipping.
Fawn Dolan of Corrales Hemporium, which also recently reopened, wrote in an email that her customers are “slowly straggling back in.”
Dolan – whose other two businesses, Camino Real Antiques and Nearly New repeat clothing boutique, were also closed down – wrote of her frustration that the hemp shop had to close in the first place.
“Governor’s orders (were) to close as we weren’t considered an essential business, even though CBD is a viable alternative for pain, stress, sleeplessness – all things that were made worse with this pandemic!” Dolan wrote.
Jackson of Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists said Thursday she and her husband have been grateful people in their immediate circle – family members, staff, fellow church-goers – have stayed physically healthy in recent weeks.
They’ve also been glad they were able to keep employees paid at home, and to come into the shop themselves during the closures to process online and delivery orders and repair jobs.
Now, their workers are all back on the job except one. Longtime customers have been coming back around, and some new faces have been in as well.
But sourcing inventory is a challenge, and Jackson said she expects a long road back not just for her shop, but for all small business owners.
“I think we’re all suffering together, and I think we can all work together,” she said. “… We’re in (the world of small business) because we love our industry, whatever it might be.”