SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Cat Fisher, owner of Sadie’s and Kitchen a la Mode, two shops in downtown South Orange, spoke with Stephanie Willoughby about how her small businesses survived during the COVID-19 pandemic with the support of her community behind her.
Sadie’s is a women’s and men’s clothing store that focuses on ethical and philanthropic brands and Kitchen a la Mode sells kitchen supplies and cooking equipment. Fisher worked in retail for 20 years and having her own store was a personal goal. She is herself a South Orange resident. One day, she walked by a space for rent in town, decided to give it a go and opened Sadie’s. Now, they’re in their third year of business.
Despite being closed, these few months have been a very busy time for Fisher. “I literally have not had a day off since March 21st,” Fisher said. “It’s been extremely stressful.” She’s been doing her best to address customer requests as they come in. “If you fulfill that now,” she said, “they’ll come back to you later.”
Now as the store reopens after being closed for several months, they have put into place several safety protocols, including permitting only one customer in the store at a time. This policy provides for safe social distancing space and allows them to sanitize and clean after each customer leaves. Masks are required for entry; customers can bring their own or the store offers surgical masks as well. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer is placed throughout the store so that people feel comfortable and safe while shopping.
“The community in South Orange is amazing,” Fisher said, citing the customers who purposely shopped local and purchased gift cards at the start of the pandemic, which helped her pay rent and utilities. “The stronger the connection you have with your community,” she said, “the easier it is to come out on the other end.”
Looking forward, Fisher is awaiting word when restrictions will be eased even more as New Jersey progresses through its restart program, and she is hoping to “be back to normal by the holiday season, fingers crossed.”