COVID forces retailers to get more creative

COVID forces retailers to get more creative

Linda Fabrizio, co-owner of Domestic Sewing Center in Warren, repairs an older model sewing machine Tuesday afternoon in her Youngstown Warren Road SE shop. Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic

WARREN — “It’s been a zoo,” is what Domestic Sewing Center co-owner Linda Fabrizio said of her business since the onset of the viral outbreak.

The Youngstown Road SE store has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic as customers made protective masks for frontline healthcare workers. And now that masks are required in public in Ohio, Fabrizio expects businesses to continue to grow.

“Everybody is making masks right now,” she said. “And now that it’s mandated by the state of Ohio, we’re getting an awful lot of people looking for machines and also repairs. It’s just been really, really crazy.”

She estimates her customers in the last four months have made and donated at least 2,000 masks to local hospitals for the “Masks of Love” initiative. All the masks are made from donated materials from clients or taken from the store’s stock of fabric. And people have donated elastic, which is in short supply, too, including a woman who owns a lingerie company.

In April, Ogden Newspapers reached out to business owners, including Fabrizio, to hear their stories about how they were coping with the onset of the pandemic. Now, we doubled-back to some to see how they weathered the storm.

The pandemic forced businesses all across the Mahoning Valley, state and U.S. to shed workers or even close under stay-at-home orders early in the outbreak, but the pandemic actually has helped Domestic Sewing Center, for which Fabrizio is grateful.

“I know a lot of businesses are suffering, but … thank God we’re not,” she said. “Because of the fact that everybody is really stepping up to the plate. And all we’re basically trying to do is keep everybody up and running so they can make these masks.”

At the start of the pandemic, Fabrizio ordered new machines, but they’ve yet to arrive. Manufacturers have not been producing them at pre-pandemic levels, leading to a shortage of machines.

“Now, and I think they’re seeing this across the nation, everybody is sewing these masks, so everybody is pretty well running out of sewing machines,” Fabrizio said. “And our suppliers aren’t keeping up with the demand right now.”

She said she sold out of the lower-priced machines, but has refurbished ones at a discount.

“These trade-ins have been really a blessing, because we’re servicing those out as fast as we can, and those are flying off the shelves, too,” Fabrizio said.

For Thom Duma Fine Jewelers on downtown Warren’s Courthouse Square, business traffic since the store reopened in the middle of May has been on the rise, said owner Thomas Duma.

Anniversaries, engagements and birthdays are some of the celebrations from which Duma said he is making the most of his sales. He said because the travel industry is taking a hit, people are turning to jewelry instead when spending their money.

Business was slow at the start of the reopen, but rebounded greatly in June with revenue exceeding that of June 2019, he said. In addition, his projections show July sales to be ahead of July 2019.



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