Small businesses that survived the peak of the pandemic are now sharing stories of strength, resiliency and lessons learned. Old Bellevue's Smith & Main is one of the many local businesses that made it through the tough times.
Owner Chanel Smith first opened her shop in 2018 and built a reputation as the go-to clothing boutique for in-season fashion and distinctive jewelry. When she shut down her store in 2020, Smith was grateful for the loyal customers who kept her afloat.
“Our customers were calling in asking if we were okay,” Smith said. “I was and still am very grateful to be in this community,” Smith said.
While her online storefront allowed her to keep selling, Smith said she knew there was more to be done. Like many businesses across the country, she brought the shopping experience straight to customers’ homes by creatively pushing products on social media. When an order came in, Smith hopped in her car and hand-delivered it right to their front doorstep.
“When we closed, I worked twice as hard just to earn half as much in sales,” Smith said. “It was worth it. Connecting with my customers is important, and honestly, I was just happy to be able to provide them with a bit of retail therapy during that time.”
Smith waited for months in anticipation of one day returning to her store. When she finally reopened Smith & Main, it was an uphill battle to get back to where she was. After many months of providing one-on-one shopping experiences, Smith found strength in numbers by collaborating with other boutiques in the area. She organized in-store events once it felt safe, hosting everything from holiday beauty events to community fashion shows.
“I think during the pandemic, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was that local businesses need to stick together,” Smith said. “These events were a way to build the community back up and do something different to help each other through the pandemic.”
In June, Smith will celebrate her fourth anniversary since opening Smith & Main. She's proud to be what she describes as a haven for women to find clothes that inspire confidence.
“We’re much more than a clothing boutique,” Smith said. “If we can help provide them with an outfit they feel great in, we’ve done our part.”
Smith plans to host a weekend-long sale and a spring event next month to celebrate her anniversary and give back to the Bellevue community.
“Without the all-around support for local businesses during the pandemic, I don’t know if we would’ve made it,” Smith said. “I’m honestly so lucky to be in a caring community like Downtown Bellevue.”
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.