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Pandemic delays, complicates Stonefield clothing business' opening

As proprietors of small businesses across the country apply for Paycheck Protection Program funds and other loans, one Albemarle County shop owner is stuck in a precarious position.

Susan Trachik, owner of Poshabilities, planned to open a new store, Meet Me at the Beach, in the Shops at Stonefield on April 1. However, due to the spread of COVID-19 and Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order, she has been forced to delay the opening of the coastal-themed clothing boutique.

Further complicating the situation, Trachik said that because her store was not open in or before February of this year, she is unable to meet payroll requirements for the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“This leaves me in a difficult position where I can’t really open my store but I also can’t access many of the loans other small businesses are able to because my store wasn’t set to open until April,” she said.

The program was funded by Congress in March and designed to be a lifeline to struggling small businesses. However, according to The Associated Press, in less than two weeks the initial $349 billion was doled out through the Small Business Administration.

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief package after Congress passed legislation earlier in the week to replenish the fund for small businesses.

However, it appears Trachik and her four employees still will not be eligible for the program. Last week, Trachik said she attempted to apply for a grant of about $5,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce but has been unable to access the oft-crashing website.

Like many other businesses, Trachik said she has moved much of her sales online, but without a known storefront, she’s had to rely on social media and clients from her other store, Poshabilities.

As the store’s name suggests, much of her inventory is seasonally themed, and it was purchased months ago, before the pandemic spread to the United States. Some manufacturers have allowed her to return merchandise.

“I’ve started offering a sort-of concierge service, where I’ll drive to a customer’s house and show them some product they may be interested in,” Trachik said. “Many of my customers enjoy the one-on-one attention they get at a boutique, and I’ve been heartened that many of my clients from Poshabilities have reached out to buy products.”

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, Trachik said she’s hopeful the unopened store’s sales will see an uptick.

“It’s difficult not being able to open the storefront, which would really offset the expenses, but we’re working with what we have and planning for the best,” she said.

Trachik said she plans to open Meet Me at the Beach in June, after the governor’s stay-at-home order is lifted and hopefully just in time to meet customers’ summer needs.


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