Downtown Elon’s businesses, stretching from Pandora’s Pies in the northeast to MaGerk’s Pub and Grill in the southwest, are watching closely as COVID-19 vaccines are administered around North Carolina and the weather heats up. The owners of the assortment of shops in downtown Elon are hoping the events of the next few months, including graduation, will increase sales.
Michaelle Graybeal, the owner of All That JAS, a custom and sorority apparel boutique, only sees the trajectory of her business and profits increasing.
“We’ve had a good spring with recruitment … we’re on an upward incline,” Graybeal said. “The goal would be that next fall would improve and that more people would feel comfortable coming in the store.”
This message of optimism was echoed by Melissa Troutman, the owner of Simply Oak, whose store has seen an increase in sales since the start of the year 2021. She is even planning to remain open over the summer with reduced hours.
These hopeful predictions follow the decline in sales business suffered in the year of 2020.
Last spring, All That JAS’ sales decreased by 70% from March to September. To fight the losses, the brand released new designs and various deals on their online store with options for curbside pickup and shipping. However, by Thanksgiving their sales were still down — nearly 50% from the year before.
“We were down half of last year from 2019, so it can go nowhere but up,” Graybeal said. “We’re just fortunate to still be here.”
The reopening of Elon’s campus has played a vital role in Graybeal’s business’ ability to stay open. She said her store had been closed for more than four months and could only be sustained through online sales on the store’s Etsy page until students returned to campus. Similarly, when Elon allowed students to participate in greek life recruitment in February, Graybeal was encouraged.
“It really didn’t improve until we knew that we were going to have recruitment cause nobody came in at Christmas, nobody did any of that,” she said.
Now, she is hopeful for the increase in sales typical of graduation, especially compared to last year, when All That JAS lost that revenue since graduation was held online, and the campus was empty.
Vivian Splawn, an employee at All That JAS, said this Easter, she saw touring families coming in droves compared to last year. Graybeal added that most of All That JAS’ sales have been non-student customers; the exception being purchases related to greek life and big/little reveals.
Both Troutman and Graybeal said they thought the increased rate of vaccinations are making people feel more comfortable with coming outside.