Historic Main Street businesses exploring new avenues of marketing and sales
Although the COVID-19 restrictions have nearly wiped outconsumer traffic on Park City’s historic Main Street, business owners are exploring different avenues to reach their clients.
Restaurants have beefed up their deliveries and curbside pickups, while art galleries and other retail stores have expanded online and social-media orders, said Alison Kuhlow, executive director of Historic Park City Alliance, the group that represents Old Town businesses.
“(Our) business owners are people who you can’t fit into a box, or do well with boxes at all,” Kuhlow said with a laugh. “They are entrepreneurs. They have pushed limits in the past, and they seem rather hearty at this moment. I know they are looking at their financials and taking a close look at their business practices and have changed them.”
Lori Harris, owner of Mary Jane’s, a women’s boutique located at 613 Main St., said online sales at maryjanesshoes.com have been a part of her business plan a few years after opening 18 years ago.
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She recently began using a service called Shoptiques, which combines her online storefront online shops, which has been a boon during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“What’s great about them is that they focus on small boutiques and what these boutiques have to offer,” Harris said. “So when a person comes to our website and searches for shopping, they will see our products, but they can jump off to see other small boutiques around the world.”
Shoptiques also helps with promotional images of items in the Mary Jane’s catalog, which includes nearly 50 different lines of clothing, shoes and accessories mostly created locally, according to Harris.
“They know that small businesses don’t have a lot of cash flow, and we don’t photograph our own products,” she said. “They find photographs and all we have to do is load up what inventory we have. They also don’t charge us for the uploads until we sell something.”
The images are tied together with Mary Jane’s website, so the sales are automatically recorded in the shop’s inventory, Harris said.
“That way we don’t have to keep checking what we have in stock,” she said.
In addition to website shopping, Mary Jane’s showcases other discounts and promotions through its Instagram account, @maryjanesshoes.
“We missed out on our end-of-season sale because of when we had to close, so one of the things we’re doing now is posting photos of the items we have left and offering what was originally $150 for $30,” Harris said.
Another promotion is taking place during the days leading up to Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, she said.
The store will offer a deal that if shoppers buy $100 online, they will also receive a $100 gift card, according to Harris.
“Online will be an extra offering that we will continue to use, even after the crisis is over,” she said. “There may be some locals who aren’t ready to jump out there to get into the shop, so they will be able to shop online. And that will be a great way for us to continue to offer our products.”
Although Mary Jane’s doors to its physical shop are closed to the public, employees are on hand to fulfill clients’ needs, Harris said.
“Our employees go into the shop one at a time to prepare and drop off online orders and to do a general check on the store,” she said. “God forbid we have a toilet overflow or other problems.”
Employees are also on staff at Gallery MAR, said owner Maren Mullin.
“We are staffed daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., because we are still connecting art with collectors,” Mullin said.
The gallery, which is located at 436 Main St., is filling orders that come in from its website, gallerymar.com, and Instagram account, @gallerymar.
“We are also putting together virtual art presentations and sending them out to our collectors,” Mullin said. “These new virtual exhibitions are something we’ll continue to use when the pandemic is over. So this situation has been an opportunity to come up with new business opportunities that can help us.”
The gallery’s last physical exhibit featuring the works of multimedia painter Nina Tachava and resin artist R. Nelson Parrish opened on Friday, March 13, and the gallery closed its doors two days later.
“Unfortunately, many people weren’t able to see these works, so we are bringing them virtually to our guests and collectors,” Mullin said. “The response has been very positive, and our guests are really enjoying what they are seeing. We’re preparing more exhibitions to share, and that’s been really refreshing.”
Finding new ways to do business is nothing new for Gallery MAR, which represents 35 visual artists from around the country..
“We really have to keep things fresh and unique, and this isn’t new with the pandemic,” Mullin said. “We have to do this anytime there’s new competition in the marketplace or we make changes of artists in our roster. We continue to look at what the present times require and come up with new solutions that will help us for the future as well.”
Kuhlow said the secret of keeping the Main Street businesses vital is communication.
“Since moment one on March 13, we’ve been holding listening sessions, where business owners could talk with each other and learn about each others’ best practices regarding marketing and letting people know that they can still patronize these businesses,” she said. “We have also used these sessions to see what additional assistance, as far as grants and loans, and changes in the laws, theses businesses need to know.”
The alliance is currently working on a recovery plan, according to Kuhlow.
“We have so much experience on the street with people who have owned businesses through different ups and downs, and they have great ideas about what we can do to come back,” she said. “So the recovery program starts with getting all of those ideas together, and assessing what the next step will be. I’m actually looking forward to doing work every day.”
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Art lovers rejoice! Park City Gallery Association reopens its monthly gallery stroll with some healthy adjustments on May 29 after a COVID shutdown.