Going back through the years, I’ve written a special ‘September’ column about a dozen times. Why, you ask, would I only write a special column in September and not any other month of the year? Because September is special, that’s why. September marks a pivotal time in our business cycle that I like to point out to my colleagues. In particular, I like to point specifically to the date of September, 15th. That’s the turning point of our retail season.
Most of us are slow during the summer months. That’s when we all take some time off, do some remodeling projects, add a few new things, and get rid of a few old things. It’s pretty common for a lot of mom and pop stores to close for a few weeks to get out of the store and recharge our batteries. But, at some point you’ve got to get out of that slow season mentality, and get back into the retail groove. That day for me is September 15th.
Through the years, I’ve adjusted the actual day a few times until I got it just right – because of what happened on September 15, 1997. I remember it like it was yesterday. September 15, 1997 fell on a Monday, and there was no way I was shifting gears on a Monday, maybe Wednesday. Well, Wednesday didn’t happen either. I finally settled on a formula that works for me; the end of summer is on the first Monday after September 15th.
This year, September 15th falls on a Tuesday. That means we can all goof off a few more days until Monday, the 21st. Then it’s back to business as usual. But, is it going to be back to business as usual, based on last year, or back to business as usual as it was right before the beginning of summer? I hope it’s not the latter because most of us were shuttered by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’m sure hoping we’re not going back to what we were all doing at the beginning of the summer, which was losing money every day. I’m hoping we get back to a business as usual that is vibrant, robust and profitable. That’s what I’m praying for.
Because I had just moved my business, people ask me all the time how I like my new store location. I just tell them, “I don’t know. I moved in, got open, and then got closed.” When we finally got the go-ahead to begin the reopening process, most of us were lucky that it happened at the beginning of our slow season. That way we all could ‘ease into our reopenings’ during the pandemic, something that none of us have ever done before. All of us had different rules and regulations to navigate in order to comply with local health mandates. Here is my journey from what’s a coronavirus, to what do you mean I have to close my business, all the way up until today.
The first most of us heard about the upcoming pandemic was during the State of the Union Address in February: “We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China.” Then all hell broke loose all over the world.
I had just sold my house, and my closing was on the last day of February, which fell on a Friday. My buyer was financing his purchase, and this whole disaster started that week. The stock market started crashing on Monday, and continued to crash the entire week. I was certain that his bank was going to pull his financing, but thankfully, the sale went through. Now I had 30 days to pack and move – during a pandemic.
Since I didn’t know where I wanted to live, I decided to rent for a few months from a friend while I looked around. Then Nashville got hit by a tornado. The place I was planning to move to ended up taking in a tornado victim who had lost their home in the tornado, taking my spot. Damn! At this point in the pandemic, all apartment complexes had closed their leasing offices and you couldn’t even look at apartments, and I needed to find a place to live!
My buyer was bulldozing my house and building a McMansion on my property, and there was already a bulldozer in my back yard reminding me I needed to get the hell out. And, with a ‘shelter-in-place’ order looming, I didn’t want to be ordered to shelter-in-place in the wrong place. In the end, it all worked out and I got moved with 6 hours to spare before the city was locked down.
During the shutdown, I was able to go to work every day because I have a mail order and an online business, but my new showroom was ordered to close for around 7-8 weeks. That sucked! I’d just moved in, and then got shut down. Once we were allowed to reopen, it came with all kinds of restrictions. All of which I followed to a T – in the beginning. Before reopening though, finding enough hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes was as tricky as finding toilet paper.
Stores that were open, and sold the needed supplies, would only allow you to buy one or two at a time, if you could even find the supplies you needed. I had to go in and out of the store several times to purchase what I needed, all while the media was saying, ‘stay home or you’ll kill grandma.’ But, in order to get open, we all needed these supplies (and we all stockpiled them) because we were going to be sanitizing, and wiping, and sanitizing, and wiping hundreds of times a day. That lasted for maybe a week with me.
At some point, I don’t remember exactly when, but I slowly started easing up a little with all the damned cleaning and sanitizing. It probably had something to do with most of my customers not caring either. At some point, most people let up on all of that. In the beginning, I would take a Clorox wipe with me into every store, just to use when I checked out and had to touch the credit card machine. Then I would use anther one back at my car to wipe down my keys and my steering wheel. I haven’t done any of that for a couple of months now. I still wash my hands frequently, social distance where I can, and I avoid picking my nose – both in public and in private. But I’ve relaxed my personal stance a bit on all things coronavirus related.
As a long time journalist, as well as a long time emergency responder, I’m often asked what is real and what is not. My answer is this; the virus is real, the reporting is not. If you follow my Facebook page, Chuck Koehler, Columnist, you can read my updates on this evolving pandemic and why things are unfolding as they are.
I’m still on the original containers of wipes and hand sanitizer on my counter, and I use them when I remember, but I really can’t remember the last time I saw a customer use them. But, in the event of another pandemic, by God, I’ve got enough wipes, sanitizer, and toilet paper to get me through it.
Stay safe out there, don’t cough on your fellow man, and we’ll all get to the other side of this thing, hopefully very soon. And remember, it’s September, Christmas is right around the corner!
Now, get back to work, and Merry Christmas!