In February, Jennifer Bouchard was considering a second location for her men and children’s consignment shop, Happily Ever After Consignment Boutique.
“I had a great response immediately,” she said of the store she had opened in October. “February was like, on and popping. It was crazy.”
Opening her own store was her dream. She worked for a spell at Twice as Nice, learning the intricacies of the business before she opened her own store.
Clothes and shoes sit on display at Happily Ever After Consignment Boutique in Naples on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. (Photo: Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY – FLORIDA NETWORK)
“I’ll do whatever I have to do to make it work,” she said in a 2019 interview with the Daily News.
But then the pandemic hit. By the second week of March, Bouchard’s store was a “ghost town,” she said. Traffic in and out of her store slowed, then trickled, then stopped. She closed for the month of April and reopened in May, but the damage was done. The money she had saved to get through the summer months was depleted, and Bouchard doesn’t know if she can get through it again. She applied for a PPP loan and said she was denied because it was a new business and did not have a tax return at the time.
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“I put every dollar that I have into this business,” she said. “Am I going to lose everything because of something that I couldn’t control?”
Bouchard isn’t alone in her plight. Fellow second-hand shops struggled when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses across the region, and business hasn’t returned to what it was prior. There’s hope for recovery — but plenty of anxiety, too.
The Society of Saint Vincent De Paul Naples is preparing their new location for business, pictured on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in East Naples. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK- FLORIDA)
St. Vincent de Paul operates several thrift stores between Naples and Bonita Springs. Kim Schul, executive director of the Naples District Council, and Bill Allen, director of development, said the society’s new thrift store, which opened last fall in East Naples, saw a healthy amount of business until the pandemic arrived.
They closed every store in March and reopened in May.
“It was a big setback. It’s the constant income we rely on,” Schul said.
Allen said income from the stores typically funds other programs for St. Vincent de Paul. They provide programs like Meals on Wheels and other assistance, such as food and hygiene items and utility assistance.
Further complicating the financial losses, Allen said the nonprofit is largely possible because of volunteers, and many are seniors who can not return or don’t feel safe doing so. While donors stepped up, St. Vincent de Paul had to