116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The past not-quite two years have brought an ongoing calendar of challenges and, in some cases, a reconsidering of business models. Here is a look at some small business in Corridor and how they’re managing to keep their lights on and be successful.
Logan Orcutt and his team at Goldfinch Cyclery were ready for the “bicycle boom” that started in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
“The bike industry boomed as a result with outdoor recreation,” Orcutt said, noting the increased business in 2020 into 2021, “... in a world that didn't allow us to do it indoors.”
Social distancing and exercise facility closures called for Iowans to find new ways to keep fit. And that drove business for the local bike shop.
But to keep up with the demand safely, Orcutt, co-founder of Goldfinch Cyclery in Cedar Rapids, had to adapt to the ever-changing business environment the pandemic presented.
Implementing curbside pickup, the Cedar Rapids bike shop was able to service new and returning clients for bikes and accessories. The shop remained this way until it could open up with limited indoor capacity.
A labor shortage and global shipping issues created challenges for manufacturers to send parts.
“When we saw the huge demand, used bikes were a hot commodity,” Orcutt said.
Orcutt recalled this past week he didn’t want his employees to worry about job security or a decreased wage. Goldfinch Cyclery has eight employees total and did not experience layoffs during the pandemic.
Over the past year, he said the shop has made over $1 million in revenue, its best year to date since it opened in December 2015. Orcutt anticipates the store to continue to see the increased demand, but will keep a close eye on the supply chain problems that will continue into the new year.
Market research firm NPD reported year-over-year sales ending in April 2021 for bicycles reaching $6.5 billion, leaning heavily on consumer interest for socially distant recreation and exercise.
Maintaining those new bike riders will be key within the next year, Orcutt said.
‘You have to be online’
Catherine’s Boutique, an Iowa City-based clothing store with three additional locations across the Quad Cities, saw the pandemic as an immediate opportunity to increase its online presence.
Catherine Champion, owner of Catherine’s since 2008, said the store went online within the first month of the pandemic.
The change paid off, according to Champion, who said while store traffic has remained slow through the pandemic, the website continues to do well. Catherine’s Boutique annual revenue is more than $1 million, she said.
Consumer data firm Statista found that in 2020 more than two billion people purchased goods or services online and e-retail sales surpassed $4.2 trillion worldwide.
Champion’s No. 1 piece of advice? Move your business online.
“If someone is not online, you have to be online,” Champion said. “Do it and get connected.
“You’re never too old to learn what you need to do. Do not say you are too old.”
The main supply chain issue Champion has faced is the shortage in paper supplies, which her stores need for shopping bags and shipping.
As for overall merchandise, however, Catherine’s had to make some changes in 2020 but now is back to all the pre-pandemic products and designs.
For now, Champion said her stores will wait and respond to the market. She continues to monitor sales and where she can make changes to remain competitive.
“We aren’t placing a lot of advance orders,” Champion said. “It is less of a financial risk.”
Despite the amped up online presence, the shop was able to keep all employees who wanted to stay.
Champion estimated she has 18 employees across the three stores who decided to come back when the stores reopened for in-person shopping.
Champion purchased the store with her mother, Connie Champion. The store has been in Iowa City for more than 50 years.
Buying house plants
Iowa City florist Every Bloomin’ Thing has been in business for more than 50 years. Kerrie and Zach Buettner purchased the shop three years ago.
The store carries fresh flowers and gifts, alongside custom designs.
Developing and maintaining their new business during a pandemic prompted adjustments for the couple.
The flower shop reduced staff members temporarily and created a pickup window for clients. The shop also began taking on more deliveries.
Research firm IBIS World analysts found the florist sector to experience the largest single-year revenue contraction in 2020. Researchers anticipated the industry would partially recover in 2021, as revenue has remained below pre-pandemic levels.
Kerrie Buettner immediately noticed the shift in what customers purchased as public health officials urged more businesses have their employees work from home and schools went to online learning.
“Everyone was buying house plants during the pandemic because, well, they were home,” Buettner recalled.
She said while her older customers didn’t come in as often, college students in Iowa City began to walk through their doors.
The business also was able to partner with other local businesses to give customers the ability to add on a gift card to a local vendor with their floral arrangement.
Buettner said that partnership allowed her to help other local restaurants that also were enduring their share of economic struggles.
Supply chain issues did not spare the floral industry.
Buettner’s immediate concerns stemmed from the perishability of flowers. However, she was able to make adjustments with her suppliers to get certain plants that she knew would be available in great numbers.
Despite being able to navigate the floral issue, Buettner said the shop still is experiencing troubles with obtaining floral glue — the adhesive used to adhere corsages and other floral accessories.
The shop luckily has been in communication with a community of other floral shops and floral glue has been shared among the owners.
“People hear about (the supply chain issues), but they can't truly understand until they experience it,” Buettner said.
Since the adaptations to the pandemic, the store rehired its floral designers and now has five employees. The business generates under $700,000 annually, she said.
But one of the most important things on Buettner's mind during the pandemic was being able to monitor the store with the increased safety measures.
None of the shop’s staff members were exposed to COVID-19 while working in the retail space, she said.
“I’m very proud that I protected my staff,” Buettner said.