Written by: Maren Roth
Maren Roth is the owner of Rowe Boutique in the Short North. She founded the company 15 years ago, experiencing the tremendous growth of the Short North area within this time. Continue reading for Maren's experience navigating the uncertainties of COVID-19 and it's impact on small businesses.
During the peak of COVID-19, there were restrictions in place and less people out and about. What tactics did you use to continue to bring in business?
I knew after a few weeks that we had two choices– we could close and wait and pray that we got online orders, or we could take this as an opportunity to reach out and connect with our customers. So every day from 9am to 1pm I was in the shop. Unfortunately, I had to let most of my staff go, except for my right hand, Sarah. We had fantastic social media tools and a functioning website and the two of us would come in and do Instagram and Facebook lives. We would do try-ons of products that would be linked to our website and we would take phone orders. We shipped and delivered every day to clients. It was the hardest hustle of my life, but it was also amazing to have such intimate interactions with clients almost daily. We really learned to pivot and, in turn, made our connection with our clients stronger and even more loyal.
After dealing with a pandemic and protests over the past two years, how is your business doing currently?
We are in a much better position now than we were. 2019 was our most profitable year ever, so we look back to those numbers to set goals and drive our business forward. I really started seeing a steady increase in sales and return to more normal sales goals at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2021 and we have continued to see growth every month since.
Have you considered expanding your store in the Short North? What are the risks associated with that?
I have! After 15 years, we are moving the shop half a block south early this summer to a space that has 300 more square feet, a basement and shared parking. I am always concerned about risk, but I think the incremental increase in space is just what we need to keep seeing financial growth. We will still keep our roots, but have the opportunity to rebrand the store, almost like a rebirth after a very difficult couple of years.
What is your outlook on retail moving forward, as we adapt to a post-pandemic world?
I think the boutique business is very different from the big box stores, so I do think having a brick and mortar store is important for the boutique experience. However, I have seen so much growth in online sales as well. It’s very tough to compete online with so many other companies, but having an online presence allows us to reach those clients that want to support, but aren’t comfortable or don’t have the time to come in. It also allows us to retain traveling clientele and allows for us to do pop-ups in cities and keep selling to them once we have gone. I think investing in a good website is super important, but my business is an in-person experience and we just can’t deny how important it is to have a shop. I am hoping we can expand our footprint to another location within the next two years to better serve those clients who don’t come to the Short North as often.