Howl Mercantile and Coffee has been nominated as the eighth “Chaffee’s Got Heart” Spotlight.
The Chaffee’s Got Heart Committee sat down with owner of Howl Mercantile, Kimi Uno to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 and how operations changed at this experiential retail environment that offers small-batch artisanal goods and is home to an intersectional creative community.
When asked how COVID-19 caused Howl Mercantile to innovate Uno explained, “In the four years since we opened, we’ve been building our Instagram platform so by the time COVID hit, we had a wide, loyal customer base that wasn’t only in Salida. When we were closed for 45 days in the beginning [of the COVID-19 pandemic}, we relied on those customers. This meant working hard on our website, adding photography and content, and implementing a new online ordering system so people could order from afar/the safety of their homes.”
She continued “Once we reopened in May, we kept doing online, but also shifted to systems that allowed us to handle as many customers outside as possible. We set up an outdoor patio, and offered pre-ordering, sidewalk pick-up, and delivery. All these options were extremely helpful for sales, especially in December, when we actually ended up breaking our all-time sales record.”
Uno went on to explain why she and her employees decided to go above and beyond for the community.
“On March 16, we were one of the first businesses to close. We had been in Denver that weekend and were amazed how many people were coming up to the mountains despite the pandemic.”
“We knew that by remaining open, there would be a reason for people to be out and about spreading the virus, and we wanted to help our community flatten the curve to keep pressure off the hospital and health care system,” she added. “Keeping our staff safe was also at the forefront of mind, as was instilling a sense of respect toward people who work in the service industry.”
When asked where Uno sees examples of the idea that “Chaffee’s Got Heart” she said, “I’ve seen it in so many of our local businesses, like restaurants innovating to get customers outside and implementing online ordering. There are some that do such a good job, like Moonlight, who accommodates customers in such a safe way that you can tell they care. It’s obvious there are some businesses that really care about our community and others that don’t.”
Speaking to Uno’s biggest takeaway from the 2020pandemic year she said, “This is something I’ve always lived by that got reinforced this year: you’re only as strong as the people you surround yourself with. Having staff that value caring for our community and are willing to follow through with the expectations that I’ve set to keep them—and the community—safe has made all the difference. My staff matter and we should treat all members of the service industry with respect and a sense of gratitude.”
Uno prides herself on carrying products she believes in and cultivating strong relationships with the people that make these products. “We envision our space as a marketplace for artists and makers — trying to bypass modern day capitalism and financially support themselves through their passion and small businesses.”
Howl is also a partner in the Ark Valley Equality Network to further the work of anti-racism in the community and to focus energy on education, healing and fundraising that the community needs to ensure Salida is fair, equal, and welcoming to all people.
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