Corrine Campbell: Corrine’s Closet
“Everywhere is doing pre-loved now. You can see where the market is getting tougher if the big box store is getting into it. All of them are trying to get rid of their inventory so they’re basically giving it away. I can’t compete with that. If it continues the way it is right now, I can’t see myself surviving the next three months.
“I’m trying to stay positive. This was always my dream, but you can rethink and come back bigger and better. I’m not going to look at it, if I have to close, as a failure.
“I design my own stuff. My inspiration was always to open my own business with my own products after I got laid off from Bergner’s. Second-hand clothes are doing well now, so why not go to that?
“I’m originally from Jamaica and came here just a couple of years ago. I decided to open my own store almost a year and a half ago. It has been doing well, but not great.
“When COVID-19 hit, the landlord said I could hold up on paying my rent and apply for grants, so it’s kind of tough.
“Last week, I did like $500 of sales for the whole week because my sister-in-law came from Delaware. [My sales] would be like double or triple that amount in the summer. You can’t even pay the light bills on $60 from one customer on a Saturday.
“There are not many stores open in downtown Springfield. With the few that are open, we’re thinking if this continues, will we survive it?
“Downtown Springfield is more foot-traffic oriented. With no foot traffic [because Lincoln sites and state buildings are closed], there are no tourists. You watch them eat and they just pass all the stores.
“For me, I get support from the state workers and they’re not in session. They usually come in during their lunch break and they’re always buying.
“As a small business, none of us have gotten help. I’m an owner-operator, so I couldn’t apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. I’ve been denied four times now. How many of us can afford to employ more people to qualify? My son comes in with me sometimes, but I couldn’t pay him. Downtown Springfield Inc. has been helping us with little things like sending us grants to apply for. We can’t even apply but when we do, we get rejected over and over again. It’s like a game.
“I usually try to have a Plan B. I would prefer to break my lease and have a big close-out sale and then I can go online and do it from home. To input this entire inventory, it’s going to take time. But can I afford someone to do it for me? I have friends sitting at home selling stuff online. Competing with all these people online, your percentage is even lower. I’m watching it up to August.
“With the state, it’s a debate. First we hear the end of May, early June, and now we don’t even know what the process is. You tell us to open, but you know we’ve been making nothing. Then they open again with curbside, but you have to advertise like crazy.
“I understand these big box stores are more prepared. But, I was looking at it as a smart business mode. They made a good move having food and clothes. I wasn’t mad. I just thought that when they opened back up, the state would be doing more for us. The frustration comes from them saying they’re going to help small businesses going forward, but you already cut out the small businesses from the grants.
“We need help with some grants and to open tourism. They need to move it if they’re going to help us. We can help ourselves if we can [open faster]. They’re holding us on the phases, but they’re not helping us.
“They need to think about small business. Small businesses are the ones that help our state more than anything else. You are in this city where 100% of sales goes to the city and they didn’t even think about us. Something is wrong with the system and it just needs a fix.”
Owner, Corrine’s Closet
Photo by Kristi Mitchell
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