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Businesses plan to continue using practices driven by COVID-19 after pandemic is over

SALISBURY — The idea was so good that Stephanie Potter says she wishes she thought of it a decade ago.

It took a pandemic for Potter, the co-owner of Salisbury Wine Shop, to see it. In March, when customers weren’t comfortable leaving their homes to shop for wine, Potter decided they would bring the wine to customers.

“It’s something me and my husband wish we’d done 10 and a half years ago when we first opened up the shop,” Potter said. “It’s helped so many people.”

With the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, the possibility of a return to some semblance of normalcy is now something that business owners can not only dream of, but anticipate. When there is a return to something close to business-as-usual, local companies still plan on utilizing the new practices they’ve implemented during COVID-19. 

For Potter, that means she’ll still be delivering wine straight to customers’ homes for the foreseeable future, even after leaving home isn’t as risky.

Using her taupe-colored Mercedes sedan, Potter and her husband began driving bottles of wine to people’s homes in mid-March after they shut their doors to walk-in customers. Since then, they’ve been placing boxes with merlots, chardonnays, craft beer and Ashe County cheeses on doorsteps throughout Rowan County.

Since this has been going on, we sometimes will deliver more than three or four cases a day,” Potter said. “That’s not every day and that’s not every week. But we have a lot of customers who will wait until they have a case put together. A lot of them will put maybe six bottles of wine and two six packs of beer and some cheese together.”

Sometimes orders will be placed weeks in advance. Other times, it’s a last-minute decision. Either way, Potter is happy to put together an order and deliver it on the same day. She’s grown accustomed to receiving calls “in the evening, during the night and in the morning before the shop is open.” And that’s perfectly fine with her.

Stephanie Potter said that Salisbury Wine Shop will still offer delivery to customers even after people are less nervous about leaving their homes. Ben Stansell/Salsibury Post

The Spice and Tea Exchange in downtown Salisbury also started delivering orders, but the shop’s owner Dionna Milem said that their curbside pickup option has been far more popular.

While Potter kept business steady by physically going to her customers, Anna Craig Boutique extended its reach virtually.

In April, the boutique went live on Facebook for the first time to showcase its inventory to customers who watched from the comfort of their homes. 

“We had no choice but to get creative,” said Andie Myers, whose sister Drew Myers started the shop six years ago.

The sometimes 40-minute long, QVC-esque shows give customers the chance to see merchandise and even purchase shirts, pants and accessories as they are being shown. Andie hosts the live videos, trying on the clothes herself and informing customers of available sizes and prices.

When Andie and Drew Myers saw how popular the live events were becoming, they decided to double down and purchase the software platform CommentSold

“We first started doing videos without the platform. We were staying at work until eight o’clock and we had all of our employees helping,” Andie said. “That’s when we decided to invest in our platform and it has 100% paid off.”

As its name suggests, the software allows customers who watch Facebook Live events to seamlessly purchase any of the items they see by commenting “sold” in the chat section. The customer is then sent an invoice for the item and can have it shipped to their home or can pick it up from the store.

“Honestly, it saved us,” Andie said. “We never really struggled during that time because of the videos.”

Stitchin’ Post Gifts has also implemented the use of Facebook Live videos to market their products.

Even though Anna Craig Boutique began welcoming customers back inside several months ago, Andie has continued to go live at least three days a week. The videos have allowed the boutique to reach customers where they are, even if that’s in another state.

“We have very loyal customers that are from out of state,” Andie said. “We have one in California, New York, Ohio. Majority is local, North and South Carolina, but when we see someone who is buying from far away we get excited.”

Andie said that the boutique plans to continue the live videos “forever” and may even look to expand its social media presence in the future.

Another local shop that will continue to use measures it adopted during the pandemic is Made Man Barbershop. The shop’s owner, Brian Hunt, said that they will continue to sanitize hair cutting stations thoroughly after each customer. While it was common for the shop to clean stations frequently before COVID-19, the chairs and area around them have received extra cleaning lately.

Hunt also said that the shop will continue to lean on Booksy, an online appointment service, to book haircuts. Although Made Man used Booksy before COVID-19, it became extremely popular when customers returned for their first haircuts after COVID-19 started.

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