Micanopy antique dealers move online to stay afloat during pandemic

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Micanopy store owners have been pressured to reassess their business plans as visitor numbers dwindle. Located 12 miles from downtown Gainesville, Florida’s oldest inland city offers streets lined with boutiques and antique stores to form an eclectic mix of vintage and art.

After the business shutdown began in March 2020, Micanopy traders sought help from the government and other sources of income. While some have brought their stores online, others have reassessed their business practices.

Marylin Pfeiffer, an employee at Antiques Plus at Old Florida Cafe, felt the negative impacts of the pandemic after a four-month store closure.

“Some people have been able to restructure their business plans, but we’re so small that we haven’t been able to change anything,” she said. “We’re stuck in a small niche where we can’t get government assistance because we’re not big enough and don’t have enough employees to qualify for most government grant programs. “

Despite securing another investor before resuming operations, rising food costs caused Old Florida Cafe to raise menu prices while losing money after it reopened, she said. .

Antiques Plus, the Old Florida Cafe-based antiques firm, has also been hit hard by declining interest in antiques.

“I don’t think millennials are as interested in antiques as other generations,” she said. “Our items just weren’t selling before the pandemic. Now, with COVID, people are afraid to go out and look at antiques. “

While acknowledging the visible decline in interest in antiques, Pfeiffer said she hoped the dominant movement towards sustainable shopping would preserve Micanopy’s economic stability.

“I think our regrowth depends on the younger generations as they begin to recognize the value of history,” she said. “Buying and selling antiques is a form of recycling. “

Other sellers share this hope for the antique industry’s resurgence.

Melissa Lockward-Bambrick, salesperson for Lost Ark Antiques, detailed the changes the company has made in the wake of COVID-19.

“There is a huge wave of people who want to own antiques,” she said. “The younger generation actually comes out more than the older generations. I think they are the ones who save the antique industry because they are looking for items with history and character.

With a wide range of unique memorabilia such as pewter toys from the early 1800s, Lost Ark Antiques has been a key Micanopy establishment since 1991, she said. While the store has been selling on eBay since 1999, the absence of festivals and antique markets during COVID-19 prompted the company to focus on its online presence, she said.

“We have moved on to eBay and other auction sites, and we are doing better now than before the pandemic,” she said. “Going online keeps people afloat. “

In addition to an online storefront, Lost Ark Antiques has started actively monitoring social media trends and interests, she said.

“The pandemic has hit us all, but if you really pay attention to things like TikTok, there is a whole movement of young people promoting shopping this way,” she said. “Taking trends into account has significantly increased our sales. “

Lost Ark Antiques’ online presence, coupled with its longevity at Micanopy, has allowed the establishment to continue fostering customer relationships, she said. While the store was closed to the public, customers could shop by appointment or request photos of the items they were looking to purchase, she said.

“Micanopy is such a fluid community that only a few of us have been around for a long time,” she said. “Decades of networking have allowed us to retain our clients. “

Lost Ark Antiques reopened to the public in September, and Lockward-Bambrick said it requires a mask for all customers and has installed disinfection stations and cameras in every room in the store.

46th Micanopy Fall Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Or: 202 NE Cholokka Blvd., Micanopy

Info: https://micanopyfallfestival.org/

Like Lockward-Bambrick, other sellers have found longevity to be their savior during business closures. Monica Fowler, owner of Delectable Collectables, celebrated her 41st birthday at Micanopy in October.

“After COVID, all of my wonderful clients were ready to come back,” she said. “I think even though we have had a break, people feel safer and are so excited to get back to the vibe of our city.”

In addition to over 1,650 antique cameo jewelry, Fowler’s boutique features American pottery, porcelain, and fine glass. She said she closed Delectable Collectables for about seven weeks from March 2020.

“Seven weeks is not an eternity,” she said. “I took the opportunity to be productive on a daily basis by redeveloping and cleaning my shop while bringing new products.

Fowler said she attributed her success through the pandemic both to the long-standing relationship she has with customers and the bond she shares with other Micanopy business owners.

“One of my favorite aspects of Micanopy is the incredible camaraderie of the merchant community,” she said. “We care about each other so much. We are not a competitive bunch at all and would recommend other sellers to help someone find what they are looking for.

This community underwent a transformation until 2020, with several locations having changed owners. While many stores have been forced to close, new vendors have moved to the area, she said.

“Stores that were struggling before the pandemic just couldn’t survive a hiatus, but our new hires have been amazing and an asset to the city,” she said. “When the pandemic was fading, we acquired such wonderful new talent. Gaining new friends in the neighborhood is such a positive outcome for all of this. “

Fowler has reopened his shop with capacity restrictions and follows county warrants while cleaning between customer visits. She also sends photos to customers on request and offers full return privileges to buyers to respond to those who are uncomfortable or unable to enter her store.

Delectable Collectables owner Monica Fowler, left, says she loves the "incredible camaraderie from the merchant community" at Micanopy.

Other antique dealers have taken advantage of the unique opportunities that digital marketing can offer. Art Adkins, owner of Antique City Mall, shut down his business for seven weeks and began to focus on his online storefront.

“COVID has made us more aware of the needs of our customers. It pushed us towards the online aspect of business, ”he said. “People at risk or who do not feel safe now have the opportunity to shop at home. “

This antique mall is the only mall in North Central Florida with an auction room in addition to its 20,000 square feet of retail space, he said. Adkins also said he and his team have used their site’s large space to create a safer shopping experience for customers.

“We have adapted and overcome by taking precautions and having auctions in large tents,” he said. “I think people want to visit these types of places that aren’t too crowded, but they can still shop, stay safe, and have a good time.”

The Great Hall at the Antique City Mall allowed Adkins to circulate a large amount of inventory each week, attracting up to 200 buyers on auction day. He says he benefited from the establishment’s online presence while continuing to sell.

“Because we are processing 1,000 to 3,000 items per week, our inventory is constantly changing,” he said. “We started putting this online and gave people the option to shop from their homes while we ship to people all over the world. “

Adkins said he was grateful for this transition to online selling and intends to continue growing the digital presence of Antique City Mall.

“We have a great social media platform and we want to keep improving it,” he said. “E-commerce is the future with antique malls, and I would like to nominate someone to work full-time on the online store and social media. “

As companies have worked to respond to changes in the antique industry, Adkins said he’s confident Micanopy will retain its charm through the demonstrated resilience of its business owners.

“It’s an old town, but it has evolved over the years to become a center of antiques in this area,” he said. “These times are part of its evolution.

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