The Leopard Way = People First
Two weeks ago my husband and I found out that we would have the opportunity to reopen our St. Charles location. At first, we were excited. We, like everyone else, are tired and ready to return to life as “normal”. I opened the doors of Leopard Boutique eight years ago with the intent to be a different type of retail. A store that creates an experience, builds confidence in women, and leaves customers and employees feeling lifted, positive, and special. While the lack of revenue has been hard, it hasn’t been the hardest part. The hardest part is the responsibility I feel for the health, happiness, and wellbeing of my customers and employees and filtering through the avalanche of contradictory information coming at us to determine what is the best coarse of action for everyone we love.
After eight weeks with Leopard’s doors closed and trying to survive off a website that usually makes up only 7% of our total revenue, we can’t get to the end of this pandemic soon enough. We have very supportive customers and are grateful for each sale, but we are still down 80% and that is hard to handle and impossible to manage long term. I know everyone has their story right now, America is made up of over 300 million different, individual tragedies as a result of this pandemic, some worse than others but all very real. At the beginning of this pandemic, we reached out to our employees asking who would be comfortable continuing to work; most were scared and we completely understood and respected their fears. So when we started discussing reopening, we reached out again and only 2 of our 17 employees were ready to come back. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I also understood. I don’t know how I feel about trying to return to normal when nothing seems anywhere close to normal yet.
The more my husband and I talked through our plan, the more depressed and frustrated we became. We’ve been working harder than we’ve ever worked. We’ve been operating without most of our employees which has forced us to take on jobs we don’t normally perform. My husband has spent time creating graphics and producing emails when he isn’t applying for grants and jumping through hoops to secure PPP money that could either save us or be an unwelcomed addition to our already difficult to manage debt load. I have been processing online orders and doing porch drop-offs in addition to the new expectation of being a full-time teacher to my children. We are usually lucky enough to have a robust support system, but now we can’t come within 6 feet of them. My father has always been generous with his time and spends 3-4 days a week watching my children while my husband and I pursue our careers. My father is 72 and must now stay home to protect himself. Like many of you, we had to learn and adjust. While trying to accomplish more work than ever, we are left with less time. The decision not to reopen means a continuation of these difficulties, but we take solace in the fact that we get to make the decision and we believe we are making the right one. When it all comes down to it, we are lucky. While these last eight years as business owners has been exhausting and difficult, it’s also been exhilarating and freeing. We still have food on the table, a roof over our heads, and two beautiful children to hold close to us. This won’t be the last difficult decision we make, but we never make them alone. We have friends, family, customers, and employees that carry us through the pain and support us at every turn.
How we move forward now is by cautiously planning our future and taking full advantage of what we can control. We will expand our curbside pickup hours in Webster Groves and slowly start bringing our employees back to a safe, controlled environment. We will start an appointment-based system where there will only be one employee and one customer in the store at any given time. We will wear masks and spend time between each appointment sanitizing everything our customers touch. If this works in Webster, we will look towards reopening the stores in St. Charles and Maplewood. We will continue to put love first and pray for a better tomorrow. We hope to see you soon, we miss you.
Our Mission Statement:
Leopard’s purpose is to help women find confidence through a personal boutique experience and a positive work culture.