Cary, NC — A locally-owned store specializing in kitchenware and cooking classes, Whisk, has been through the retail rollercoaster of COVID-19. Co-owner of the store, Dan Saklad, took a moment to share the journey.
Closing Up Shop
Dan runs the shop along with his wife Diana and together, they made the difficult decision to close up shop for two months at the beginning of the pandemic and cancelled all classes for four months. For them, the closing of Whisk’s doors was just the beginning of the affects that they’d see from this virus and the residual nervousness of shoppers.
“When we opened back up, we were operating in a new reality,” said Dan. “Fewer customers walking the store, full-scale safety and social distancing protocols and a ‘retail neighborhood’ limping along with closed restaurants and movie theaters.”
A big help along the way in creating an entirely new way of operating was the feedback they received from customers.
Adapting the Business to a “Coronavirus World”
After a 4-month hiatus, cooking classes returned to Whisk, though Dan says they had to be altered “to fit a coronavirus world.”
This involved fewer classes each day, fewer students and a full spectrum of safety protocols for students and staff participating in the classes.
“Business for us will be different from this point forward,” said Dan.
The business has changed on all fronts, now aimed at accommodating various types of shopping and not allowing any long lines or crowding.
The biggest change the Saklads saw was the remarkable pace at which customers switched to choosing online shopping over coming into the store to support them.
“Until a vaccine is created and distributed nationwide, our job is to meet our customers in their ‘comfort zone,’ wherever that may be, and try to serve their needs as best as possible,” said Dan.
The direction of the ship has steered entirely toward building their business’ online presence and expanding their methods of shopping to include curbside pickup orders and shipments. Dan says even though it tends to be less profitable, home deliveries have even been in the mix, as it enables them to keep in touch with their customers.
Customer Traffic Slowly Returning
Following the initial two months of lost sales, Whisk along with its neighboring businesses of Waverly Place, saw extremely low foot traffic. As the months have gone on, Dan says their customer base is slowly but surely coming back.
“COVID had created a huge economic hit for our business,” said Dan. “We have had to curtail most of our cooking school business because of social distancing protocols.”
The classes offered now are operating under a new set of protocols including reduced class sizes, a symptom screening, masks and rigorous cleaning.
“The days of large groups of friends shopping together are gone for now, but we have created a destination experience that makes it as easy as possible for our customers to shop quickly, find what they need and enjoy the entire experience,” said Dan.
Looking Back at the Learning Curve
Now, seven months since the shop’s initial closing, the Saklads look back over this time and can find some gratitude in the process.
“We have found a few opportunities to drive the business in new ways, but the real opportunity we have come across is networking and problem solving with other business owners locally and around the country. Regardless of the type of business you have, we all face some common challenges. It is nice to have everyone focused on the same problem at the same time because all of us are able to pick up good ideas from one another,” said Dan.
Support Local at Whisk
Whisk is currently offering in-store shopping, online shopping, phone shopping with curbside delivery, knife sharpening and smaller scale cooking classes.
“We live in this community, and want the community to thrive. In these tough times, supporting local businesses is more important than ever,” said Dan.
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