For Martin Luther King Day, we hear from an artist who makes civil rights heroes leap off the page.
In April, we spoke with Andrea Vieira, the co-founder of D.C.’s Nailsaloon. Like many small businesses at the time, the Nailsaloon was struggling. Vieira was hoping to get a loan through the Payment Protection Program (PPP) to help her stay afloat after closing her two locations in March.
So did she get a loan? And how are her Nailsaloons faring nine months into the pandemic recession? We’ll check in with her.
We’ll also speak with Stacey Price, the co-Founder of Shop Made in DC, a retail initiative with a mission to grow D.C.’s makers and artists. We’ll see how those makers and artists are doing as we near the end of this difficult year.
Produced by Kurt Gardinier
KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. Small businesses have been hit hard since March of this year, which has made many of us more aware of the importance of our local shops, bars and restaurants. In fact, according to the "Harvard Business Review," nearly half of all Americans work for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. And that's the case in the District, as small businesses employ nearly 48 percent of the private workforce.
KOJO NNAMDISo, how are our local businesses doing nine months into the pandemic, and what are ways we can support them through the holidays and beyond? Joining us now is Andrea Vieira, a co-founder of D.C.'s Nail Saloon, which has locations in Logan Circle and Capitol Hill. But before we get to Andrea, I'd like to play a clip of her when she appeared on this program back in April, about a month after closing her business because of the pandemic. Here it is.
ANDREA VIEIRAI mean, I think part of the journey that we're all on is to just accept the anxiety of the moment and know that not a lot of this is in our control. We're doing the best we can to try to stay afloat, but it does mean also facing the real harsh reality that we might go under, eventually, you know. And it would be heartbreaking.
NNAMDIAndrea, thank you so much for joining us. How are you and The Nail Saloon doing today, eight months after we last spoke?
VIEIRAHi, Kojo. It's good to be here. Gosh, listening to that clip feels, in many ways, like it was yesterday that I said that. (laugh) And, also, it was, you know, a lifetime ago that I said that. We're doing okay. I mean, we're surviving, hobbling along, and I think we're going to cross the finish line of the year with, you know, our tongues out and tripping over ourselves. But it looks like we're going to make it.
NNAMDIAndrea, in April, you expressed the difficulties and frustration in getting a PPP loan through the CARES Act. Did you end up getting a loan, and how was the process for you?
VIEIRAYeah, we did end up getting a loan. It took quite a long time for all the paperwork to clear, but eventually, we did receive it. We're now in the process of asking for a loan forgiveness as part of the package that was offered. And it definitely helped. I think right now the government's in talks for stimulus to continue, and it's kind of unbelievable to me that we're still, you know, not providing the appropriate guidance to small businesses like mine.
VIEIRABut it did. What we did receive was very helpful, and that, I think, enabled us to stay open as long as we have, even in those first two months when we were able to use the money from the funds to pay our team.
NNAMDIIf you don't get loan forgiveness, will you be able to pay back that PPP loan and still stay in business?
VIEIRAWell, probably not, Kojo. The reality is this. Right now, we're able to make all of our bills. Our landlords are very happy, because we are -- unlike even some of our neighbors in both of our locations who've had to shut down -- we're able to pay our rent in full, and we're able to pay our team. Of course, we're not running a profit. We're making it to the end of the month, you know, with sort of pennies to spare. And my business partner and I, of course, have not been paid since March. Nor will we for the foreseeable future. So, if the pandemic continues and we have to pay this money back, we're fully in the red.
NNAMDIWell, Congress is in the midst of passing another pandemic stimulus bill. It's unclear what the final bill will include, but a sizeable amount of the money is intended to help small businesses like yours. Will you apply for another loan?
VIEIRAAbsolutely. I think every businessowner right now is just looking every way they can between grants and government funding and even loans to just be able to stay afloat. This has been such a hard year. You know, we're operating on about 30 to 40 percent capacity right now. And it's impossible to really pay your bills on that. I think no business plan is ever designed with that in mind, on the long term. So, absolutely, we will be applying for any aid that we can get.
NNAMDIJoining us now is Stacey Price, co-founder and chief localist of Shop Made in D.C. Stacey Price, thank you for joining us.
STACEY PRICEThanks for having us, Kojo.
NNAMDILet's talk about Shop Made in D.C., the organization you cofounded, which works with local makers and artists. What is it, and why did you decide to create it?
PRICESo, it's a retail incubator that supports artists and makers in the District. I've spent my career being the cheerleader for small and local business. And this really started as an economic development experiment. My business partner and I saw an opportunity to take away some of the challenges of people making products and have them focus on what they do best, is make. And we created space for them and marketing for them. And we launched in 2017, with just the thought of what would happen if we created a space with a condensed amount of makers, how much money could we put in local economy.
NNAMDIHow has business been both in your actual stores and online, and have you seen an increase in sales this holiday season?
PRICEOh, wow. This holiday season has been a tremendous gift. I feel like we're lucky in all of this. If you look at national retail sales, most retailers are down 50 percent. We're probably down closer to 35 percent. And a lot of that has to do with this holiday season. We've really seen the consumers show up in a way that we just didn't imagine they would. So, we're actually having one of our best holiday seasons ever.
NNAMDIStacey, were you eligible for any pandemic relief, and have you gotten any local or federal help since the start of this?
PRICEYeah, again, very lucky. We got a small PPP loan. We got a couple of small grants from the city. And we're looking -- I mean, we're going to need it again at the beginning of the year. This isn't over. And we may be faring better because of the holiday season than a lot of other small and local businesses, but we're not out of the water yet.
NNAMDIHere now is Deidre in Manassas, Virginia. Deidre, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DEIDREYeah, thank you so much. What a great show. This kind of dovetails into what you were talking about before. There is a local Broad Run, Virginia, purveyor of spices and cheese. He makes a tea called Red Fruit Cocktail, that you make it with, you know, steep it a lot, make it with honey. And you can add any whiskey, vodka, tequila, and it is fabulous.
DEIDREBut, aside from that, he sells at farmers markets and things. But the, you know, teas, you know, lamb rub, meat rubs, chili spices, the best chili spice I've ever found, fresh organic, non-pesticide plants. And it's just a really fabulous business, and it doesn't get more local than that, really.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. Andrea Vieira, many businesses see an increase in sales over the holidays. Have you seen an increase this year?
VIEIRANo, Kojo. Unfortunately, because of the restrictions on our space -- which we of course respect and abide by pretty conservatively -- we are not able to see an increase. We've been capped out at about 35 percent of occupancy, even though we're allowed 50 percent. But keeping six feet apart means that we can only fill X amount of seats. So, we've been capped off since the beginning of the reopening.
VIEIRAAnd our client base, I have to say, is so loyal and so lovely. Even as I've been on the phone with you, on this show with you today, I've been receiving texts from them, saying I hear you and I love The Nail Saloon. So, we're very fortunate to even be able to fill our space the way that we can. We've made lots of cuts. You know, The Nail Saloon used to be a place where you would come in and be served a cocktail or a cappuccino. We've made cuts to all of our beverage services, because the mask wear has to be 100 percent.
VIEIRASo, there have been cuts to the experience. We've been fortunate to be able to keep our prices the same. That was really important to us. I know that a lot of businesses have done COVID stipends, which I also understand. I think right now everybody's in just survival mode, but we have not been able to see an increase in sales, unfortunately. It's been pretty steady, and for that, we're very grateful. But, no, no increase on the holidays.
NNAMDIHere's Ali in Washington, D.C. Ali, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALIHi, Kojo. How are you?
ALISo, I have a business called Blue Ribbon Floral. I'm a mobile flower shop. So, I started my business right before the pandemic, where I was doing outdoor pop-ups. But then when the pandemic hit, I had to stop them completely. But, surprisingly, people love flowers, and they want them in their space, so we do 100 percent contactless deliveries every week. We've also been doing virtual flower design classes for apartment buildings who want to give their residents a really fun experience. We've been doing wreath-making virtually, too. So, it's actually been kind of a different response on my end for being able to pivot a little bit differently with flower design.
NNAMDIHave you seen an increase in business during this holiday season?
ALII have, actually. Thanksgiving was probably my most profitable holiday so far. I think a lot of people were hunkering down and wanted to make their space really beautiful. And, you know, this holiday season in December has also been -- I've seen an uptick in sales, as well.
NNAMDIOh, very good. Well, thank you very much for sharing that with us, and good luck to you. Stacey Price, talk about the makers and the artists who work with you who create the products that fill your shelves.
PRICEYeah, so we have five locations in the city now, four of which are open. And in the five locations, we have about 300 makers. And when we say maker, we mean anything from a woodworker to a jewelry maker to a food producer, letter press artist. We basically sell any sort of product being made in the District. And these makers for, you know, pre-2017, before we opened, a lot of them were just hobbyists. And because of the revenue of our stores and their increased business throughout the city, they've been able, a lot, to leave their full-time jobs, to hire staff, to rent studios. And so, this has been a challenge for them.
PRICENot only did we shut down all of our locations, but they had no markets. Just like the lady was saying that just called in, there's no markets. There's no festivals. A lot of wholesalers have pushed pause on ordering. So, it's been tremendously difficult for them.
NNAMDIWe're going to get to one of your makers who called in and is waiting patiently on the phone, but first, talk to us about Adam the woodworker who, it's my understanding, initially turned you down when you offered to work with him and sell his creations. What does he make and why didn't he think he could work with you?
PRICE(laugh) He's one of my favorite stories to tell, because he did turn us down when we asked him in 2017 to be a part of us. We saw talent in his furniture, but he felt like he didn't have a -- he was doing lots of custom creations, which he still does. But he didn't feel like he had a sellable product. And so, it took some coaxing, and he joined our family, as we call it, and now he has a line of products that we did help co-create with him throughout his time with us.
PRICEAnd he's one of those makers that I'm talking about who's been able to leave a full-time job and hire staff and get a studio space. The other day, he told me he was ready to buy a van and actually -- you know, he is growing. And even in a challenging year, he's been able to hit his business numbers.
NNAMDIWow. So, it's clearly working for Adam. Joining us now is Yoko of Yoko Confections, one of the Shop Made in D.C. makers who makes small batch gourmet gifts at her store in northeast D.C. Yoko, thank you for joining us. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YOKOHello. Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, Yoko. What do you do, and how did you get involved with Shop Made in D.C.?
YOKOWell, thank you. We're a local gourmet gifting company. And, as you shared, we produce in Northeast D.C. And we create delicious and beautifully packaged gourmet goods that we partner and sell with to corporations, retail outlets, as well as direct to consumer.
NNAMDIWow. And how has it been working out for you with Shop Made in D.C.?
YOKOStacey and all of the team, as she shared, you know, it is a family. And she has truly been a blessing to us. And we are so grateful for the opportunity to sell in her store, and also to be linked within the corporate gifting program. Because it has absolutely kept us quite busy this year.
NNAMDIWhen and how did you get involved with Shop Made in D.C.?
YOKOVia email and I went in face-to-face with Stacey and brought in a sample of product. And following that, probably about a week or so later, Stacey and I reconnected, and she invited me to be able to be a maker within her stores.
NNAMDIWow. Sounds like a great story and a great opportunity for you. Thank you for sharing that with us, Yoko. Stacey, what safety measures are in place at your stores, and how confident are you that you've created a safe environment for your customers, your employees and, well, for yourself?
PRICEWe were very careful. You know, once the mayor lifted the mandate, we took a moment or two before we reopened. We were really -- safety's been top of mind from the beginning. We piloted one store before we opened the rest of the stores. And we have continued to only allow -- our largest location only allows 12 customers at a time. So, we go from 12 to 8, depending on the space.
PRICEAnd so, we have social distance tape on the floors. We have hand sanitizer. We have increased cleaning, basically, the same as all other retail businesses or any business that's open now. We've been very careful and thoughtful about how we've moved forward. Honestly, as a businessowner, it's a little scary, but I feel like that we've created what I feel is one of the safer environments that I've been in, as a consumer.
NNAMDIAndrea, D.C. put new coronavirus restrictions in place, a number of which actually kick in tonight at 10:00. What will that mean for nail salons like yours? And explain to our listeners, if they haven't understood it yet, why you are not just a nail salon, but a nail saloon. And has the pandemic affected your saloon function?
VIEIRA(laugh) Yeah, the pandemic has definitely affected the saloon function. We always joke that that extra O in salon was like the "oh factor," because The Nail Saloon was a place where you could come in and have a drink of any kind, I mean, teas, hot chocolate, sodas, sparkling water with lime, you know, cocktails, beer, wine. A whole list of beverages that we joked was the only decision you had to make, was choosing your color and choosing your drink. And then the rest was just for relaxation.
VIEIRABecause we encourage -- well, we mandate that everybody in our space wears masks, and I'm so proud of our community in D.C. We've had literally not one complaint about that since we've started. Everybody's so supportive of that and wears masks and understands that they have to socially distance. Even if a couple comes in or a parent and a child come in, they understand that they have to sit far apart so our technicians aren't close together.
VIEIRASo, we definitely have lost a little bit of element of saloon, which is the complimentary beverage service that we used to offer clients. But as far as the new restrictions that kick into place tonight, I feel for businesses, you know, like restaurants that can't do indoor, you know, dining anymore with this weather. But I also understand with our case rate in D.C. going up, we have to. For salons -- and for personal services, in general -- it basically means that we can still operate by appointment only and with our stations seated at least six feet apart, which is what we have been doing since the start of the pandemic.
VIEIRASo, in that case, we're going to continue what we have been doing until we're told otherwise. But, you know, like many other businesses, I mean, like Stacey was saying, we do, you know, take everybody's temperature when they come in. We ask them to wash their hands. That's for team and client alike. We keep our distance. Everybody wears face shields and masks. And so, we're doing our best to keep cases not from spreading in our space. And, so far, we have not had a single case that we've been aware of.
NNAMDIStacey Price, at the beginning we played a clip of Andrea from April worrying about her business surviving. Did you ever worry or fear Shop Made in D.C. wouldn't make it?
PRICEI never thought that we would not make it. (laugh) It's been unclear what we were going to look like, though, you know. I came to terms pretty early with the idea of us potentially needing to close spaces. You know, we have more than one location. We did furlough our team immediately. We felt like that was the best way to guarantee dollars in their accounts. And we pivoted everything and moved online. And, within a month, we had enough revenue to start bringing people back. And then, you know, we got the PPP loan.
PRICEAnd, yeah, I mean, we're not going anywhere. I still am unclear if there will be any shifts in the way that we look, but we did -- for those of you who don't know, we did open a fifth location during COVID, which felt like -- it felt a little crazy. It was something that was already in the works with my business partner's food hall in Capitol Hill. But for myself and my team and for our makers, it kind of felt like a beacon of hope in all of this, you know. We were all pretty -- we worked really hard over the summer. And some points were high, and a lot of points were low, but looking forward and opening a new location really, I think, made us all know that things are going to be okay at some point.
NNAMDIHere is Danny in Washington, D.C. Danny, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANNYHi. I just have a question regarding -- because I'm a young consumer, and I love the accessibility of Amazon Prime, but I still want to be able to support small businesses. So, like, how can I still get the accessibility and ease of getting my product quickly, yet still support a small business?
PRICEWell, you're never going to get the turnaround of Amazon Prime, I'm going to tell you that. And for many of us, you're not going to get the free shipping. What we learned about -- right now, 50 percent of our business is online, and what we learned is doing ecommerce business is actually more labor-intensive and more expensive than having locations.
PRICEBut, with that said, many of us do have a day turnaround on processing. And, you know, one of the things that we did is we hired delivery drivers for our locations. And so, you know, we usually are able to get things -- if it's local, we can get them out the door within a day, and to you within 48 hours. And so, again, you're not going to have same-day service as Amazon, but you will know that you are supporting small business. And, for us, you're supporting small business that supports over 300 small businesses.
NNAMDIHere now is Nicholas in Washington. Nicholas, your turn.
NICHOLASHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
NICHOLASSo, I'm not a small businessowner, but I work with Georgetown Frame Shop. And we were struggling at first when the whole lockdown was, but, you know, since reopening and everybody's locked down at home, I think people want to decorate their houses more with custom framing and art. And business has picked up a little bit in the last couple months, which has been...
NNAMDIWhich has been -- Nicholas, which has been what?
NICHOLAS...which has been great for us and local businesses around. We're a very small local business, so we're only about five, six people.
NNAMDIOh, good for you. Good for you. Andrea, you can't get a mani and pedi virtually, so for people listening who don't feel comfortable going into a nail salon or one of your nail saloons, how can they support you? Purchase a gift card perhaps?
VIEIRASure, they can purchase a gift card, but, Kojo, I'm going to be really honest and give a very non-business owner response, which is this. We're making it. We're making it. We're squeaking by. And if we continue as-is, we will make it. My encouragement to businesses who want to support us is that they support our neighbors instead. So that they support restaurants who can't have indoor dining because people have to obviously take masks, and it creates a riskier experience than coming to a place like The Nail Saloon.
VIEIRAI encourage people to shop at Shop Made in D.C. and support Stacey and the caller that just called in. I mean, there's so many businesses that are hurting right now, that we'd love it if they diverted their funds that way.
NNAMDIAndrea Vieira, Stacey Price, thank you both for joining us, and good luck to you. Today's segment on holiday food traditions was produced by Richard Cunningham, and our segment on local businesses was produced by Kurt Gardinier. That's it for today. We're going to be taking a break from the show over the holidays. We'll be back on Monday, January 4th to ask about your New Year's resolutions and to hear from a dancer with the Washington Ballet on Kojo for Kids. Until then, happy holidays to you, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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