Dreams Delayed: Local stores stay positive even if they can't have grand openings

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 09, 2020

Everything had been going so well for the partners developing the Vevay Antique Mall on Main Street. Among the Post-it notes they put on the wall during planning, "have fun" was front and center.

They were on track to realize their dream in record time.

"Within a week, we had a plan, we had our LLC, we had our DBA," said partner Angie Priest. "It was really organic. Everything just fell into place."

You know what they say about the best-laid plans.

"Lo and behold, let's have a pandemic and everyone's invited," sighed Priest.

The Vevay Antique Mall was supposed to hold its grand opening on April 1. It was a passion project for Priest and business partner Timothy Shackleford.

It was a lifelong goal partner Emily Prarat shared with her mom.

"I didn't know how we'd ever do it alone," she told WCPO. "So when Angie approached, it was like a dream come true."

Now, it's a dream delayed.

Inside Vevay Antique Mall
Preparing the Vevay Antique Mall for an eventual grand opening

The front and side doors of the Antique Mall remain closed. There's now a sign outside that encourages people to "Shop Virtually." And that April 1 grand opening?

They had it anyway. Just without customers present in person. They did it on Facebook Live.

Even though the store's doors aren't open, the partners are making sales - also virtually. They use their Facebook page to show off their items. About one third of the space has been rented and several vendors have moved in, while others are waiting out the coronavirus pandemic.

The mall ships worldwide and even offers curbside no-contact pick-up on Main Street. They call it "A Curiosity Emporium" because of the wide range of items they sell - furniture, clothes, Christmas decor, toys and games, and more.

"We can invoice you so you don't have to leave your home or come in contact with anyone," said partner Timothy Shackleford.

It is just one example of ways locally-owned businesses are innovating when they should have been opening storefronts this spring.

Originalitees storefront
Originalitees prepares to open its first storefront in East Walnut Hills

In East Walnut Hills, paper still covers the Woodburn Avenue windows of what was supposed to be the first brick-and-mortar location for Originalitees.

The company, best know for its "Ohio Born and Raised" and "Product of Public Schools" shirts, had a grand opening scheduled for Friday, April 3.

"Yeah, I do have some anxiety about it," said founder and CEO Khisha Asubuhi. "But at the end of the day I know that everything's going to work out."

Her decade-long dream, too, has been delayed.

"When we go to different events [like Taste of Cincinnati and City Flea], our in-person sales were just, they kept rising," said Asubuhi. "I realized, 'OK, it's time for a storefront.'"

Luckily, Originalitees has long had a robust online presence. Even though those events have all been canceled or postponed, Asubuhi can still fill orders from the back of her newly leased space.

And she decided she needed to do more than that.

"You never know when we're actually going to open, you know?" she told WCPO. "But the good thing is we're able to give back."

Originalitees has announced partnerships with the Freestore Foodbank and Sew Masks 4 Cincy, to raise money for efforts to support our communities during the pandemic.

Originalitees partners with Freestore Foodbank
Originalitees has created shirts and totes to raise money for the Freestore Foodbank

According to a news release, the Freestore Foodbank has reported a 46% increase in pounds distributed to its partner agencies compared to this time last year. That comes to about 33,000 pounds of food each day.

Asubuhi said each sale will allow the Foodbank to provide 24 meals per shirt and 15 meals per tote.

Now, more than ever, we're seeing small businesses get creative to survive. Even though neither of these stores can open doors, they're adapting to operate anyway.