“We hit our sales goals the whole month of March,” she said. “I felt like, the last two years, we were treading water, but come March, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Then, the feeling was depression and unsure. I’m a planner, and I hadn’t planned for closing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic followed by Gov. Greg Abbott’s stay-at-home order in mid-March forced Perry and other retailers to shutter stores.
“We closed our doors on Friday, March 20,” Perry recalled. “We closed at noon, locked the doors, and shut down.”
On May 1, non-essential businesses such as Perry’s could reopen after Abbott’s executive order expired and Texas began reopening.
For Perry, the journey from March to now was a tough one. Her struggle was mirrored in small businesses across the Highland Lakes.
In early March, Perry and Nickie Coughran of Monroe’s on Main Street, who has two locations in Marble Falls and another in Llano, were eagerly anticipating Spring Break, which signals the start of the tourism season in the Highland Lakes.
Coughran, who co-owns Monroe’s on Main with daughter RoiAnn Myers, carefully picked merchandise for the spring, including the best fashions and the latest jewelry.
Retailers such as Perry, Coughran, and Myers plan their inventory and daily operations down to the smallest details.
The one thing they didn’t plan for was the coronavirus outbreak and business shutdown.
It seemed like a financial death sentence, but Perry and Coughran didn’t give up. Instead, they came up with creative ways to keep their businesses going. Both Perry and Coughran turned to their websites and social media to bring in sales.
For Perry, the social media sales took her back to how she started Two Black Cadillacs two years ago, as an online boutique before opening the brick-and-mortar store in Burnet.
“Everything just kept taking off,” Perry said of online business.
That success led her to the physical store, where she shares space with her sister, Kristen Salivdar, a hair stylist.
“It’s everything I wanted and more,” Perry said.
Perry got another boost through a business loan from the city of Burnet and its Economic Development Corporation.
“That helped us pay our bills in April and May,” she said.
Both Perry and Coughran opened their doors last weekend, and the owners and employees are taking every precaution to keep themselves and customers safe, such as cleaning frequently touched surfaces, fitting rooms, and restrooms.
All three Monroe’s on Main locations are open seven days a week. Coughran said she especially loves being open on the weekends because she meets residents and visitors of all walks of life.
“I love fashion, and I love people,” Coughran said. “I love helping people put outfits together.”
Right now, Two Black Cadillacs is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to adult shoppers. Perry is only allowing five customers in at a time to comply with capacity limits under the governor’s directives.
“So we can clean and get a good feel for how things are going,” Perry said. “We hope to open for regular business hours next week. We can clean between customers. We’re cleaning fitting rooms and counters.”
Though the doors to their shops were closed for several weeks, they weren’t home relaxing.
Coughran and Myers were busy getting the Monroe’s location at 209 Main St. in Marble Falls ready for customers. They were moving in merchandise, making buys, and shipping orders.
“We shipped daily during all this,” Coughran said.
Perry was reviewing and searching merchandise, updating her website and social media, and filling orders.
The three remain grateful to their customers.
“Everyone has been supportive,” Coughran said. “We’ve had lots of customers waiting for us to open. We’ve had lots of customers online and on our (social media). We’re ready to see all our regulars, all the tourists, and all the new ones.”
“There’s always been that thought that this could fail,” Perry said of her Burnet boutique. “I’m not going to let it fail. I thought of a million things that could happen to keep me from my business. I never thought it was this (pandemic). I’m definitely stubborn, I’m definitely hard-headed. I’ll keep doing it until I can’t.”
Coughran noted she has witnessed an increase in traffic on Marble Falls’ Main Street in the past week, a sign that people are ready to get back to a more normal routine.
“We were definitely worried,” she said, “but I had faith it’s going to be fine. I do believe (sales will) come back better than before.”