Open For Business

In Lola Shreveport by Lola Magazine

The past year has presented enormous challenges for local businesses. Through these challenges business owners have found ways to adapt and persevere. Nearly every small business was affected by altered operations, deeming an uncertain future. Retail stores and restaurants have suffered dwindling foot traffic due to government regulations. Travel and event industries were shut down almost entirely and continue to falter from previous years. Local beauticians were considered non-essential and became unable to produce income. Hard-working American people were presented with great obstacles, and yet they prevailed.

Although faced with big setbacks, local businesses have celebrated the small victories, found alternate avenues to reach their customers, and given great thanks to those who have continued to shop local. We asked several small business owners to give us an inside look at the obstacles that they have faced and what we can do to support them. We are grateful that they continue to roll up their sleeves and continue to be OPEN for business.

BROOKE CHAPMAN | Hairstylist

Tell us about your business…

I have been a hairstylist for a total of 16 years. I spent a few years living the college life and it was not until I experienced the loss of one of my best friends in a tragic accident that I realized life is too short and decided to take a leap of faith into the hair industry. Without any doubt, the best decision I have ever made.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

In all honesty, my initial thought was “Is this for real, surely not!” I remember a wave of fear coming over me. I immediately called my father. My parents have always given me sound and solid advice. We discussed the situation at hand and prayed about it. I prayed a lot! It was amazing because I can remember finding a peace that I have never felt in the middle of what felt like pure chaos.

I had no clue how long I would not be able to work, but I chose to embrace the time I had with my daughter and to celebrate being able to be still with her. Forever, I will be thankful for the uninterrupted time I was able to spend with her.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

There have been countless challenges that I and everyone else in the hair industry have had to overcome. The shortage of supplies has been a huge problem that we have had to take day by day and week by week. We still will have a shortage of gloves, etc., that we struggle with getting weekly at this point. Not to mention the cost of ALL of our supplies has increased significantly.

When the salon opened back up to the public, each stylist was limited to one client at a time. So, though we were grateful to be working again, we were making half of the amount we normally make in one day. The main problem we are facing right now, other than shortage of supplies, would be continuous cancellations. More people have been diagnosed with COVID or they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for it and have to quarantine. In one week, I had 6 cancellations for color. That may not seem like a lot, but to a hairstylist, that adds up and that was just one week. I could complain about the mask and all the sanitary precautions we have had to follow, but everyone and every business is having to follow it as well. Again, I think everyone in the hair industry is just incredibly thankful to be working again and if following certain mandates keeps our doors open, we are grateful to do it.

Tell us about your victories!

When the quarantine finally came to an end, I could not answer the text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, etc., fast enough. The surge of people that contacted me as soon as the restrictions were lifted were insane. I have never felt so much LOVE! I have heard so many amazing stories from different people, but I can only vouch for my own experiences. I had so many people pay it forward to me. Some of my church members who are also my very dear friends at Open Range sent me cards with scripture and checks inside them weekly. They knew that I was a self-employed, single mother and wanted to ease some of my fears. I never had to ask anyone for any help financially. God kept showing up and showing out in my life during this time.

What can locals do to support your business?

I think we would all benefit the most from people shopping local. We hear it a lot, especially around the holidays, but this is different. So many small and local businesses are hanging on by a thread. It may cost more and it may be a bit of an inconvenience, but you will be supporting someone’s livelihood one way or another by shopping at small businesses and locally for sure.

What are your goals for 2021?

I am incredibly grateful for 2021. If there is one thing I have noticed this past year, it is that people are NOT feeling like “themselves.” Almost everyone, including myself, has had “quarantine hair.” Men had longer hair for a change and most embraced it. Most women realized they could go longer without getting their color re-touched. I also had quite a few women decide they wanted to embrace their natural gray hair and are making the change to grow their color-treated hair out. This process is not for the faint of heart. The outcome is absolutely beautiful, it just takes time to get there.

Recently, maybe due to a New Year, people are asking for a “change,” whether it is for a haircut or color, they are wanting to shed the old and welcome something new. Either way, it feels hopeful and I will take it and embrace it for however long it lasts.

ANTHONY FELAN | Fat Calf Brasserie

Tell us about your business…

We are Fat Calf Brasserie, a small, family-owned restaurant in the Highland community led by Chef Anthony Felan. We specialize in French-inspired cuisine and have a specially curated wine and cocktail menu. Chef Anthony dreamed for years of owning his own neighborhood restaurant and after years of working his way to achieving this dream, we finally opened in Nov. 2019.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

We were terrified.  As a new restaurant, we had no idea how we would survive the shutdown.  The type of food we serve wasn’t exactly your typical “take out” meal, so we made the tough decision to close down completely and ride out what we expected to be a month without too much overhead.  We figured if we could cut back on expenditures, we might be OK.  When Phase 1 opened us back to 25 percent capacity, we knew it was not feasible for us, as that meant we could serve 15 people at a time indoors.  Without the PPP and EIDL loans, we are certain we would not have been able to reopen after the four months we were shut down.

We understood the need for the closure, and know we would have seen a significant decline in sales without the mandate because there was a legitimate concern of the virus, but it definitely lasted way longer than any of us ever imagined.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

We were extremely lucky (and very thankful) to have about 90 percent of our staff return once we went to Phase 2 and reopened our dining room at the end of July.  There were many other challenges along the way, though.  Product cost and availability was definitely one of them, but the biggest issue for us was knowing how to handle COVID contraction and exposure amongst our staff.  Restaurants have been held to a much different expectation than other businesses when it comes to positive cases in the workplace, and just navigating that has been our greatest challenge and concern.  We have always taken the virus very seriously, but it’s not financially sustainable to shut down every time one of your staff members comes in contact with a COVID-positive person.  However, we have done just that.  Thankfully we made it from July to December without any direct exposures or cases amongst our staff.

Tell us about your victories!

The shutdown was one of the best times for our family to catch up on some much needed downtime together.  We also were able to focus on creating a new and expanded menu, doing some much-needed work around the property and then we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in May 2020.

Our community showed up in various ways to support us, either picking up curbside, flocking to the doors when we reopened in July, or sharing about us with their friends and family.  We gained many new customers in 2020 and continue to see many more new faces thus far in 2021.  The community’s support and our staff’s commitment to us through some very rocky times showed us that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to, even as we face these unpredictable and challenging times in the restaurant industry.

What can locals do to support your business?

Share about us with family and friends, come eat, order pickup or delivery, purchase gift cards online.

What are your goals for 2021?

We rolled out a new menu at the first of the year that has gotten great feedback. We have also expanded our patio and created a garden area for seating as well. We went from a four-table patio to eight tables, plus four picnic-style tables in the garden area.

Our main goals right now are to be able to cover the patio area to keep it accessible year-round and work on some sound proofing for the inside to help with the noise level.

ANGELA PFANNER | Birdwell’s

Tell us about your business…

Birdwell’s — a collection of southern style began out of a love of home, family and southern classics. In October 2015, the start-up story began with a process of branding, styling, and curating to create a unique brand built around the story of our grandmothers. In 2016, our website launched followed by holiday Junior League shows, both regionally and locally. In April of 2018 Birdwell’s found a storefront home at Airline Plaza in Bossier City.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

A lot of unknowns and honestly having no idea how the weeks would play out. I also knew there was a community of business folks in the same boat and some of my closest business friends had the same concerns.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

During the weeks of the storefront closure, the biggest challenges became asking my team to stay on board but yet stay home. It was a one-woman show to save money but yet try to make money or at least pay monthly expenses. Canceling incoming inventory, shipping and product availability became issues.

Tell us about your victories!

Absolutely, the local community rallied around our business and so many others! My focus moved to creative social media engagement (from front porch makeovers, home styling, quarantine gifts, self-care baskets, goody bags for teachers, kids, healthcare workers) to contests and giveaways by partnering with other businesses to keep our followers engaged and reminding them we were still in business. I went in every day to fill online orders! Local delivery was a huge part of surviving along with curbside pickup. Our customers ordering online or through social media truly made the difference in keeping Birdwell’s going. When we got the word we could reopen, the local support was amazing! One story that meant so much was the night before as I was getting the store ready to reopen, a car pulls up and a few folks hop out with chalk and create a sidewalk chalk drawing of support. It was the Bossier Chamber team going business to business to encourage us! The local love is alive and well in our community!

What can locals do to support your business?

To keep on remembering the difference their purchase makes to a small business. Every dollar goes back in to helping a local business and business owner make it. Google and social media reviews matter greatly along with word of mouth of the experience and home and gift items you can buy locally. We have been so fortunate to have other local businesses pour back into us and offer support, advertising and purchasing from us.

We are continuing to offer shipping, local delivery (if requested), and curbside pickup. We try hard to offer a personal and tailored experience of southern hospitality while offering our customers local products and art along with our curated collections of home and gifting.

What are your goals for 2021?

2021 — in the year of who knows — not only survive and grow in our third  storefront year, but thrive in the community! We are excited to launch our “Baby and Me” registry along with continuing to expand our bridal registry. We look forward to hosting our various after-hours events and even plan to offer private shopping events. Our home styling service will expand, and we are planning on growing our corporate gifting in the coming year. We’re also excited about new product lines and local art and vendors that we will be bringing to our Bossier City store.

If you have shopped with Birdwell’s, you know part of our story is around our grandmother’s influence. One of the greatest gifts Mamaw Eula Birdwell gave her grandchildren was the gift of gratitude — no matter what. So, in the words of Mamaw Birdwell, “thanks a million” for all Lola, local business friends and our community is doing as we all get through these times stronger and better. Happy New Year!

HEATHER KREAMER | Remax

Tell us about your business…

I’m a local realtor in the NWLA area.  I obtained my license 2.5 years ago and jumped in feet first on my new career path. I enjoy helping clients buy and sell their homes as well as help people invest in real estate. I have a background in marketing and design, a love for interior and exterior of homes, as well as helping people! Being a realtor gives me the opportunity to guide people through one of their most important purchases of their life. I love coming up with creative ways to get peoples’ homes sold. My favorite way is through staging homes that I am listing for sale. This creates an ambiance of warmth and welcome to potential buyers to guide them into visualizing themselves living in the home. By doing this, I have created a lower number of days on market for my listings versus the market’s average number of days on market.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?   

While real estate transactions were still considered an essential service in our area, I did question how this would affect our real estate market. Even with most places being mandated to close, our local real estate market hit a boom! From title, to lending, to real estate agent, we have all worked together to push through this pandemic to continue serving our clients while making their home sale or purchase dreams come true.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

My challenge was to make sure my buyers and sellers were taking all precautions available to keep their homes and themselves as safe and healthy as possible. I think one of the most memorable moments from the mandates were the drive-up closings on a windy day, and my clients were having to sign their documents in their car. Needless to say, there were a few times we were chasing papers around the parking lot!

Tell us about your victories!

In 2020, I doubled my production from 2019. I believe what got people stirring to buy or sell in 2020 was the extended amount of time they were spending in their homes. Numbers in various types of home improvement during COVID had spiked. People were doing repairs they had been putting off to sell, realized the home they were currently in wasn’t the right fit for their family anymore, or if there was another shutdown, they really wanted that outdoor kitchen with a pool (haha). Also, the low interest rates were beneficial for homebuyers, and the shortage of inventory has helped sellers.

What can locals do to support your business?

I would say to continue to buy and sell real estate while referring me to their friends and family. Our real estate market hasn’t slowed down from COVID. It is still steadily moving.  For investors, this year will be a great opportunity for you to invest in rental or investment properties.

What are your goals for 2021?

My goals are to double the number of families I help buy and sell their homes this year, personally invest in rental property, and maybe even start on my first flip. I’m excited to show the area my twist on flipping a home.

REGGIE GRIEDER | Corner Collection

Tell us about your business…

We are a full-range, year-round outdoor store. We feature outdoor furniture, fountains, pottery, etc. We got into this business 20 years ago, and it has grown into a blessing.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

We never had to close our business because we also deal with landscapers, builders, and designers. So we have part of our business that was essential.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge has been the supply chain, and customer service with manufacturers. They were too understaffed to handle the influx of issues and delays. We couldn’t get straight answers like in the past. Too many unknowns with the supply chain to give us clarity.

Tell us about your victories!

2020 was a record year. Ark-La-Tex support from all over. We also were in a great spot because we keep the largest inventory in the Ark-La-Tex, and had inventory to sell.

What can locals do to help support your business?

Continued local support will be a must for any brick-and-mortar store to stay alive in the coming years.  Without local support, these types of business would become extinct.

What are your goals for 2021? Tell us about all the great things that we can expect from your business this year.

We are positioning ourselves as best we can to have enough inventory to keep up with demand. We ordered our 2021 inventory back in July of 2020, just to have on hand for spring of 2021. Our continued great customer service is always our number 1 goal throughout every year. We pride ourselves on making our customers feel like friends and family during and after a purchase.

SHANNA VALENTINE | Pretenses Boutique

Tell us about your business…

I graduated from LA Tech with a degree in fashion merchandising. I have always loved fashion and helping women feel and look their best.  After several years of working in retail, I decided to opened Pretenses Boutique in 2013. My dream was to have a store where all generations of women could shop and find something they love.

Pretenses is a women’s clothing and accessory store, carrying exclusive fashions to fit your needs from a night out on the town to a comfy night at home. We pride ourselves on one-on-one shopping experiences and always want you to look and feel your best. We carry everything from classic to trendy pieces and always amazing quality. Pretenses will be celebrating eight years in business this March.

Tell us about your victories! Have sales been up because of local support?

I was humbled and grateful for all the local support for 2020, especially during the holidays! I truly felt the love of my community and the loyalty of my customers coming out to shop with local small businesses. I have been blessed this year with wonderful supportive customers, family, employees, and friends. Because of them, we made it through 2020! Also, the community of business owners that rallied around each other this year was truly amazing! Because of all of them, we made it through 2020!

A big victory for us was finally getting our website up and running, after years of procrastinating, I finally took the time to sit down and create our website. It has been a game-changer for our business, and I cannot imagine not having it.

What can locals do to support your business?

One of my favorite quotes about shopping local/small is, “When you support small business, you are supporting a dream.”. That could not be more true when it comes to myself and Pretenses Boutique. I truly treasure all of the support we have gotten over the last 8 years. I know this past year has been tough for everyone. Any support, no matter how small, from shopping in store/online or just by sharing and commenting or reviewing us on social media platforms is greatly appreciated.

What are your goals for 2021?

I am hoping for a wonderful 2021! We just went to market and picked up a few new lines that I am excited about. We know with the wonderful support of each and every one of you we will be here for many years to come. The best is yet to come from Pretenses!

CASSIE ROME | 318 Art & Garden

Tell us about your business…

318 Art and Garden is a curated Louisiana Art and Gift Gallery that features products hand-made in Louisiana. All merchandise is purchased from Louisiana small businesses unless it cannot be curated from Louisiana which is a rare circumstance. We are about to celebrate our 3rd Anniversary on April 12th!

Our business got started because I had corporate burnout. I worked in the Pharmaceutical sales industry for about 15 years and got tired of traveling! I was never able to be a part of the community. I knew I wanted to find passion in my work. Finally, after a year and many failed business ideas in many notebooks, it took a visit from my friend for my lightbulb moment. She saw my collection of Louisiana art along with my 40+ container gardens and suggested I open an art and garden shop. After some educational trips to New Orleans, I developed a plan and 318 Art and Garden was born.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

Shock and utter confusion. My business is my livelihood for me and my employees. The uncertainty of what this new disease could inflict on our country kept us all up at night. We had just signed a lease to move into the bigger space next door… as scary as that was I decided to keep busy by readying for the move and planting a COVID Garden in my backyard. Plants always bring me peace. Tending to the garden and watching the plants grow is a way to channel your energy in a positive way. I will not lie, there were a few glasses of wine involved in the gardening! As time went on my team and I focused on driving our customers to our online store while trying to be very thoughtful about our Universal Health Crisis.

Other than closing, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenges were from a financial standpoint. With an immediate halt to business, I kept in close touch with my bankers to keep informed about opportunities. Keeping all of our employees was most important. Ultimately, our local bank, Cross Keys, worked hard to help us get Federal funding that was available and this helped us stay afloat during the time we were completely closed except for our online store.

Tell us about your victories!

As we got closer to re-opening, we realized the only way to sustain our business was going to be through increasing growth in online sales. We upgraded our existing online store and created a new one that was easy to navigate. Our customers began to adapt quickly to being more online-focused. As time went on, we adjusted to masks and social distancing. Customers began shopping online more, as a result, online sales for 2020 were up 300%! I would like to point out that our community showed up and supported us in every way they could.

What can locals do to support your business?

Please continue to visit us at 750 Southfield! We practice COVID safety precautions and require everyone to wear a mask. Please continue to use our online store and support us on social media. Don’t forget to like, comment, and share posts from our page. Most importantly, remember to shop local for all your art and gifting needs!

What are your goals for 2021?

We are working hard right now to add a framing division to 318 Art and Garden! It will be an in-store option hopefully within the next 6 months! So now, all of the beautiful art and art prints purchased can be framed on site! Our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for Art/Framing/Gifts in Southeast Shreveport. And of course, Downtown Art House, at 717 Crockett in the Andress Art and Entrepreneur Center is in the works! Follow Downtown Art House on Instagram and Facebook for updates.

SETH HIGHTOWER | Devine Wine & The Keg Package

Tell us about your business…

We had the idea of getting into the liquor business in 2006 when we purchased The Keg Package, a liquor store that has been operating since 1972.  We moved locations and built a new Keg Package in 2014.  In 2016, we purchased Devine Wines and Spirits.  We have now merged the two businesses together, Devine Wines & The Keg Package, located off exit 83 at 670 Tarbutton Road in Ruston.

What were your initial thoughts when government mandates closed your business?

Being a liquor store, we were never mandated to close our business. Lucky for us, liquor is considered essential, especially during a pandemic!  We did operate with drive-thru only for a couple of months to be safe.  Our business has been one of the more fortunate and we are blessed for that!  After hearing of the mandate to close so many other businesses, we became very concerned and aggravated.  We hoped they would allow businesses to open and operate safely, and not shut them down! Hopefully, more businesses will be able to open soon and operate to full capacity on a safe level.  We wish other local businesses the best and are dedicated to supporting them.

What have been some of your biggest challenges?

Quarantining workers who have been exposed or tested positive for COVID 19 has been a challenge. We are not staffed heavily enough to fulfill these shifts. Supply and demand is struggling for almost every kind of inventory-based business. Keeping items in stock has been impossible because like my own business, many of my suppliers lack the workers to keep many items on the shelves.

Tell us about your victories!

Again, our business has been blessed during this pandemic.  The it was announcement “the world shutting down” was a huge day for us.  We also had a very successful holiday season. Since many bars and restaurants are limited to what they can do, people are shopping the liquor stores and going home to be safe.  Hopefully, for the sake of bars, restaurant owners, and all other struggling businesses, this pandemic will be over soon and their businesses will flourish again.

What can locals do to support your business?

Always shop local!  Keep your neighbors and your communities going.  Keep the money in your town and not in corporate pockets.  Help spread the word with positive reviews by social networking, or the “old school way”, by word of mouth.

What are your goals for 2021?

We will expand our selection even more!  Exclusive spirits, wines, and craft beers that are difficult to find will be stocking our shelves.  We strive to continue being the best and keeping our customer service top-notch!  To show our customers appreciation, we host tastings, offer raffles, and always try to keep low prices.  We also offer a state-of-the-art, clean, well-lit facility for an enjoyable shopping experience. Thank you all for your patronage!