Holiday Shopping at Local Businesses

Holiday+Shopping+at+Local+Businesses

Photo by Amber Wright

By Amber Wright and Amaya Taylor

The holiday season is approaching fast, and yet it looks so different this year. Most people are shopping less and indulging in their online shopping habits to avoid the crowds. In the midst of this pandemic and digital age, small businesses are often overlooked. So, the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to go out and support these local businesses. From books to home decor to miniatures, Monument has small shops for just about anything you could want, and we encourage you to give these shops a try this year.

Gayle Wade is the owner of Monumental Miniatures & Toys, a store full of beautifully crafted miniatures, toys and trinkets. Wade opened this local shop in December of 1996, and she has enjoyed owning it ever since she retired from her job as a flight attendant. “I was a flight attendant at the time and knew that someday I would retire and I would need something to do, and miniatures had always been a passion of mine, so I found the building and started the business,” said Wade. 

Monumental Miniatures is located in historic downtown Monument. All photos by Amber Wright.

Normally, the business is open six days per week, but “of course, with this pandemic, things have really changed,” said Wade. The shop is now open four days a week during the holiday season from 11 am to 5 pm and the shop will go back to being open three days a week after the holiday season is over. “It just didn’t have enough business to stay open six days [a week].” Wade is 77 years old, so she hasn’t worked in her shop for quite some time. Her part-time employee named Rhonda has been working the shop in her stead.

The shop has two sides: the miniatures and the toy side. The capacity rule now requires that there are only two people per side, which has not been difficult to enforce this holiday season considering that most people are opting to shop online. Some days have more customers than others, but “it’s been kind of a hit-or-miss thing,” said Wade. “I’m just going to appreciate it every day.” 

Furniture sets on display in the miniature shop.

This year in particular though, the toys are more popular than the miniatures. “The toys have really been taking off and I think it’s probably because they [customers] don’t want to go to Walmart or Target during this problem we’re having. But normally, it’s pretty evenly divided between the toys and the miniatures.” Monumental Miniatures has handmade miniatures from all over the country as well as products from a larger distributor. In addition to manufactured toys, the shop includes green toys, which are made from milk containers, as well as wooden toys made in Vermont.

A customer looks at products in Bella Casa Decor and Design.

Bella Casa Decor and Design is a home decor shop filled with a wide variety of holiday decorations and gifts that is located in downtown Monument. Jenny Fields purchased the business in February of 2020 and has owned it for 11 months now, saying that it has been an “exciting but terrifying” experience.

When she graduated from Lewis-Palmer High School in 2004, she knew she wanted to go into interior design some day. Recently, she took a courageous step towards her goal. “When I discovered this store I was super excited and took a leap of faith and decided to purchase the store. So, this is my new career!” said Fields. 

A normal day for Fields consists of greeting customers, helping them with interior design or inspiration, and working on her store’s inventory. She is always updating her stock with the seasons and holidays. For the holidays, Bella Casa is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and on Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

Christmas decorations at Bella Casa.

“Lots of people come in here for gifts and holiday decor. Right now, we’ve definitely slowed down because of Covid,” said Fields. As a result of this slowdown, Fields has had to do what most business owners are faced with right now: downsizing the staffing. “I’ve definitely had to cut hours, because we can’t financially support full time employees. So, a couple of my girls that work for me, we kind of rotate shifts so I can provide income for each of them.”

Customers coming to Bella Casa “can expect good customer service and we always give inspiration. We also allow customers to take home things on approval for them to try it to make sure it works in their home. We want to make sure that when they take it home they love it and it works for their style,” said Fields.

Beautiful decorations and stuffed animals at Bella Casa.

As with other small businesses, Bella Casa has faced financial hardships because fewer customers are coming in to shop. To create some extra revenue for her store, Fields created a website at the beginning of the pandemic to allow customers to shop online. Online purchases have not been too popular so far, but Fields believes that “it’s a start and Bella Casa never had an online platform before so it’s really new. I think it’s going to be something to build on here in the future.”

Steve Wright owns an Anytime Fitness up in Littleton, CO, and he has been in the fitness industry for 36 years. As a business owner, he’s been forced to navigate the sea of financial aid through stimulus checks, grants, and loans. As it stands right now, “there’s been no stimulus for small businesses since March, April, or May of 2020. From June and July all the way up until now, December 2020, there’s been no financial aid whatsoever at a national or federal level,” said Wright.

At the beginning of the pandemic, businesses were able to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. The PPP is “a program that can be 100% forgiven as long as you use the money the way it was stipulated to be used,” said Wright. “Meaning, 60% of the money granted to the business could be used for payroll, and the rest could be used towards rent, utilities, marketing, and advertising.” As long as businesses follow these guidelines, all the way up to 100% of their loan can be forgiven. This is much more helpful to businesses because it is “more of a grant than a loan that has to be repaid.” 

Small businesses could also apply for a loan under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). Of the EIDL, there were two parts of the program: an initial grant of up to $10,000 that does not need to be repaid and then any amount over that is a loan that does need to be repaid. The second part of the EIDL is “a loan that businesses can secure that has to be repaid. So, putting yourself further in debt when your business is already down 35-40% or more, is a very dangerous [and] slippery slope,” said Wright. 

Unfortunately, businesses received grants and loans from these programs at the beginning of the pandemic, and there has not been any federal aid since then. As a result, many business owners are facing the likelihood of being forced to close their businesses.

“All local businesses need our support now more than ever.”

Steve Wright

To help small businesses near you, we encourage you to shop local for the holidays and after the holiday season. “Come in and spend money!” Wade joked.

“Spread the word to try and get everybody to shop local and support downtown Monument,” said Fields.