For today’s Q&A with a local business owner working to navigate the COVID-19 public health emergency and related restrictions, we hear from Karen Stinchfield of The Whitney Shop.
Here’s our exchange.
New Canaanite: The Whitney Shop is a unique anchor of downtown New Canaan, positioned in its prominent stretch of Elm Street for so many decades. Yet in all those years, I imagine, this is something you’ve never experienced. How are you faring?
Karen Stinchfield: Like all businesses both here in Fairfield County and around the country, it’s tough. I miss not being able to see our wonderful staff everyday. I miss our customers. I miss the bustle of retail life.
Tell me about The Whitney Shop’s operations and services at this time, while the physical store is closed to the public.
Right now you can call the store (203-966-4566) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I am happy to send photos of merchandise, FaceTime customers, curbside deliveries and do home deliveries. And of course we ship nationwide. I’ve even held up outfits to our window so one customer could choose something for her granddaughter. Meanwhile my husband has been busy updating our windows because even though we can’t welcome you in, we’d still like to bring a bit of cheer to Elm Street.
What has the response been like from the community?
Our customers have always been kind and gracious, and that’s true now more than ever. We are so grateful for anyone shopping right now. It always brings me joy to help customers and now, since we’re physically cut off, it’s been heartening to find new ways to help them.
Understanding that no one really knows how long this situation will continue, what is your read at this point on The Whitney Shop’s ability to outlast the public health emergency-related restrictions?
I think only time will tell. My hope is that New Canaanites will remember the allure of a thriving downtown with wonderful, customer-centric businesses and once we are able to reopen, they might shift their purchases to independent or local stores because they realize the value in having them here.
What are your most popular items?
Right now, baby gifts. Amid all this uncertainty there are still moments to celebrate and nothing is more joyful than a new arrival. We have been doing a lot of custom embroidery and monograms on stuffed animals, pillows and baby books (what a first year to capture!). There have also been lots of customers shopping for a little pick-me-up for themselves or a friend who’s extra down.
What’s your message for Whitney Shop customers?
We hope you are staying safe and still finding moments to celebrate in your life. We love our community and we’re here to help however we can.