Vista, CA –During the first two months of the shutdown, Gumaro Escarcega and his wife Fabiola Plata saw business plummet 70% for their family-owned shop, Embroidery Image.
Fortunately, like many other small businesses across the country, the Vista, Calif.-based shop – whose specialty is in-house custom embroidery, including logos and personalized gifts – has been able to pivot in an effort to keep the doors open.
“We started working with contractors who work with the medical industry, which helped us stay afloat. Although our numbers are still down, we have slowly been seeing better numbers, with now only a 20-to-30% reduction in business,” Escarcega said.
He added that Embroidery Image has received great support from the local community, as well as existing business accounts.
“We did see a spike of local crafters interested in working with us, which is awesome. The City of Vista Economic Development Department and the Small Business Development Center also provided much needed PPE for us and our customers to stay safe during this pandemic.”
Embroidery Image, which first opened in 2007, was purchased by Escarcega and Plata in 2017 after the original owners retired. The couple, who grew up in a small California town in Monterey County and have been together since high school, also live in Vista. Escarcega said the support from his fellow Vista residents has made a big difference in his shop’s continued success, despite COVID-19.
Embroidery Image in Downtown Vista has managed to keep its business going during the pandemic, thanks to community support.
Now more than ever, Escarcega said, the community has a crucial role to play in the “shop local” movement, which will help maintain quality of life, and ultimately restore the vitality of small businesses, as well as downtown and other commercial districts.
“Small businesses play a vital role in creating a soul and character in our cities, so supporting small businesses will only enhance the community’s quality of life,” he said. “Shopping local means that your hard-earned money stays local, which supports the local economy and your neighbors.”
In fact, small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, creating two-thirds of net new jobs and driving U.S. innovation and competitiveness, according to a Small Business Administration report. The report also shows that they account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity.
Multiple studies also show that small businesses reinvest in the local economy at a higher rate than chains do. Many Vista small businesses give back to their community. One of them is 508 Tavern, which donates gift cards and goods to local organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, Vista High School baseball and the public library.
“Up until three and half years ago, I didn’t realize the direct impact local businesses have on the community,” said co-owner Shelly Kentner, a Vista native who opened 508 Tavern with her husband Hector Estrada in 2017. “So many local small businesses are supporting local baseball, softball and soccer teams. And on top of that, you see your bartender who served you the night before eating at another local restaurant. The money is being circulated through the community. It’s full cycle. Everyone is supporting each other.”
Today, Kentner is extra grateful for the Vista community and other visitors who are supporting her quaint tavern, which is part of Vista’s thriving craft beer scene.
508 Tavern owners Shelly Kentner & Hector Estrada
Although 508 Tavern is only at about 25% capacity with two employees, business has begun to pick up as people feel more confident about going out and continue to follow COVID-19 mask and social distancing rules, Kentner said.
“The last two and half months have been humbling,” she said, adding that the Tavern also has a new back patio, which has come in handy. “Our community has such a great vibe and has been very supportive.”
Business is also starting to sprout over at Croziers Flowers on Main Street in Downtown Vista. The 60-year-old flower shop, which was purchased by Dave Gish and his wife Jennifer in 2019, had to lay off some employees and shut down temporality at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. But they were still able to take orders and do non-contact deliveries until they could physically open the shop back up in June. Due to an uptick in business and local community support, the couple was also able to bring back some employees.
“The shop has been here for 60 years; a lot of people in Vista don’t leave,” said Gish, who grew up in the flower industry in Encinitas, but now lives in Vista with his wife and business partner. “We have customers come in and say they bought their prom flowers here 40 years ago. We’ve had so many people tell us that they are so thankful that we are still here. We have felt very supported by our local customers and by new customers. We have benefited from the local community rallying around us.”
With the Amazons of the world dominating the market, Gish said it’s been a big challenge for smaller businesses like his. That’s why shopping locally is more important now than ever, he said. And customers are getting that.
“There’s a sense we get talking to customers that people are craving a personal connection in a place where they can have some roots and with a local business they can trust,” he said. “One of the greatest things about local businesses is we offer personal customer service and relationships. This is probably one of the loneliest times in our country’s history. People are craving that and we feel thankful to be able to provide that for folks.”
The City of Vista is also lending a supportive hand to local small businesses. Recently, the City launched a Vista is Open campaign, aimed at helping local small businesses recover following the COVID-19 economic shutdown, while offering special deals to customers.
Shopping local allows more tax dollars for local parks, streets, kids, and senior activities, fire protection and public safety, said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the way we do business,” Ritter said. “The Vista City Council and I are actively taking steps to support not only our residents, but also our business owners during this critical time. We have seen many Vista companies rise to the challenges when it comes to helping during the pandemic. Their spirit and determination, which is an integral component of the Vista community, is still helping our city continue to grow and prosper. Let’s continue supporting local businesses who need our help, now more than ever.”
Community Support and Personal Connections Keep Vista Small Businesses Afloat During Pandemic
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, creating two-thirds of net new jobs and driving U.S. innovation and competitiveness, according to a Small Business Administration report. The report also shows that they account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. Multiple studies also show that small businesses reinvest in the local economy at a higher rate than chains do. Many Vista small businesses give back to their community. Shopping local allows more tax dollars for local parks, streets, kids, and senior activities, fire protection and public safety, said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter.