When Kim Ehlebracht opened her clothing consignment shop Bucks 4 Style in 2013, life was good — certainly better than it had been just a few years earlier during the worst of the Great Recession.
But who would have thought seven years ago that a pandemic would hit the economy like a wrecking ball? While she had heard stories about what businesses had gone through during the Great Recession, nothing prepared her for COVID-19.
For the most part, clothing shopping is different than other retail. People like to feel clothes and try them on, but more and more people are buying clothing online. As a result, Bucks 4 Style changed its business model to include online shopping.
“I added a website is what I did, but I didn’t add it until after we were shut down, which I regret because we were shut down March 17 and then we were able to reopen May 8, but during that time when I was shut down people were still trying to support local shops,” Ms. Ehlebracht said. “What I would just do is just post things like on social media and then just mail it to them and then not until later, once we kind of got rocking and rolling again — that’s maybe like September — in October is when I created the website.”
Despite the new website, Ms. Ehlebracht found that she was having more success on social media.
“I’m going to say that social media has been a whole lot better for me than it has been with a website, because with a website it’s a matter of people finding you on the internet, you know? If you’re not high up on the Google engine, they’re not going to find you,” she said. “So, it’s just taking a while to get people aware that I have a website. But social media was definitely the lifeline that I had.
Ms. Ehlebracht would post new clothing consignments that she thought would be of interest to her Facebook followers. She also put together outfits.
“If it was just something that I thought was cute that I could put together an outfit around it, I just posted it on my Facebook page and on my Instagram,” she said. “And then of course you have to tell them the size, how much and the brand. I would also share it on different groups. That’s where I would just share everything because people are still thinking about clothes and they go, ‘Oh, you’re still open.’ If they drove by, and we weren’t open during COVID they thought our business was shut down for good.”
When she began posting merchandise on social media, Ms. Ehlebracht was surprised by the reaction she received from customers.
“Oh, they’re grateful that I’m still here. They want to know if there’s anything that they can do because it’s all consignment. They want to know if it would be helpful if they just donated their items to me instead of consinging it,” Ms. Ehlebracht said.
Once customers found she was still open, they were supportive in helping her stay in business, Ms. Ehlebracht said.
“A lot of the feedback I got was just, ‘What can we do to help, like what can we do to keep you her? And my feedback to them was keep coming in and saying hi because I need that right now,” she said. “You all need to keep each other positive. It doesn’t mean that you shop or you buy gift cards or anything. Just come in and say hi or through Facebook share the name of the business, just get the word out there that we’re still here, we’re still trying to plug along.”
Despite being a Main Street fixture for several years, Ms. Ehlebracht was surprised at the warm-hearted reaction she received from the community.
“I’m probably going to get teary-eyed because it brought me up. It was out-of-control amazing support that I got from the community. I mean, you do kind of have an idea of how liked you are, but not that much where people just want to do everything and anything for you. I mean, the outreach was incredible. Once a week I posted on my Facebook page to say you guys are the reasons I’m here. The people that come in keep me going by sharing the Facebook page, buying gift cards, buying stuff, bringing in their consignments — I mean all that stuff is why I’m still here. It cheered me up a so many times when I got so many replies from people.”
For Ms. Ehlebracht, it was a real “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment.
“It was magical. We live in the best community because we have the best people in this community that care about each other, and when they say help thy neighbor, that’s the dang truth!” she said.
Bucks 4 Style is located in Historic Downtown Florence at 404 N. Main St.
Editor’s note: The Florence Independent is running a story on a local business as part of a project on YourValley.net highlighting the people behind the companies and their struggles in the ongoing pandemic.