For nearly 13 years, I have been the owner and operator of Merry's, my own little store in Long Beach, California. This store has been my dream since I was eight years old, and is the culmination of my life's work: my backgrounds in fashion, retail, and humanitarianism have come together in this boutique, where I offer "fashion with passion from faraway lands", handmade by indigenous artisans from around the world, presented in an immersive environment styled as a multicultural bazaar. It is my heartfelt belief that cultural understanding is a first step toward world peace; and that by seeing, touching, and learning about something made by someone on the other side of the world, the world seems a little smaller, a little more personal, and we remember our shared humanity. The clothing, accessories, and home accents in my store come directly from the artisans who create them, as it is my wish to support them by paying them fairly and creating a market for their handwork. When my store was doing well, I also held fundraisers for people in need around the world-- from hosting a Japanese dance demonstration to support survivors of the tsunami in Japan, to showcasing West African dance to raise funds to stem the Ebola epidemic.
Times have been difficult recently for my store, as they have been for all brick-and-mortar retail stores, but I had still been blessed with just enough business to keep my doors open. That changed in early October, when the City of Long Beach decided they had to tear up and replace the sidewalks, curbs, and gutters for several miles along the road where my store sits. From then until just before Thanksgiving, everything outside my store was torn up, at times making my doorway inaccessible. The road was closed, there was nowhere to park, and attempting to walk to and from my store involved navigating mounds of dirt and open trenches where the sidewalks used to be. I lost all of my business during the Halloween season, which is normally a busy time for my store. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday both came and went with no business. The Christmas rush of previous years never arrived. The period from October to New Year's Day is critical for retailers: we do a large percentage of our yearly business in those few months, as we must, to survive the notoriously slow period from January through March.
Now, as of late January, the construction signs are going up again. The City has returned to do more street and sidewalk work, including repaving the street itself. This is scheduled to last until early April.
It saddens me terribly to know that my store cannot survive this. My last hope is that someone will find it in their heart to help. I am two months behind in my rent, and while my landlords want me to stay and have been wonderfully supportive, they have a business to run, too. There are artisans I must pay, and if I am able to keep my store, I will also need a new sign, as sun damage has made the current one almost illegible. My store needs to be more aggressively marketed, and for its selection of offerings to be refreshed, neither of which I have been able to afford. Money is so tight for me that I am running out even of basics like hangers, bags, and business cards.
If I could somehow be supported through the next few months, until the construction is over and business hopefully picks up in the spring and summer, I feel that my store can survive. This store is everything I love and believe in, and I would be deeply grateful for your help, so that I may continue doing my small part in making the world a smaller, kinder-- dare I say, merrier-- place. I don't want to give up on my dream yet.