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Downtown retail shops prepare to roll with the punches during ‘COVID-plagued’ holiday season

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Smiley's Joy Boutique on West Wayne Street.
The Urban Hippie women's clothing store on West Berry Street in Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Temperatures climbed above 60 degrees Friday in the city, but it didn't cause local retailers to forget the Christmas shopping season is coming fast.

Downtown shops like Smiley's Joy Boutique at Wayne and Fairfield Avenue generally count on walk-in traffic to deliver sales.

But the store that sells women's clothing and this time of year lots of holiday decorations is finding many customers aren't as comfortable venturing out to brick and mortar shopping venues right now.

Cathy Smiley, the shop's owner, is working to improve her online marketing efforts.

A couple of blocks away on West Berry Street, Reboot Labs is also navigating a new world of challenges facing businesses.

The store, among other things, sells puzzles, games and other products desisgned to boost a child's understanding and appreciation for the subjects of science and math.

The store's owner knows in-store foot traffic will be down this shopping season.

"We don't see any way that it won't be down off of our past years, but we still are optimistic we can do the best…we know families are looking for things to do and we offer a lot of things when you're quarantined or hunkered down together. There's a lot of fun projects that we have for that," said Jeff Yates.

A couple of doors down from Reboot Labs, a group of young ladies who run The Urban Hippie are promoting Internet sales of the women's line of clothing the store carries, items you don't often find in other clothing shops.

"It's the new normal that we have to deal with and it's amazing to get to see different ways that we can market ourselves, with all of these things happening," said Delaney Reilley with The Urban Hippie.

"We won't be able to have the crowds that we usually have on small business Saturday and so the Downtown Improvement District is doing four Saturdays of shopping, so it'll spread things out a little bit. We're all hopeful that it (the pandemic) ends as soon as possible," said Cathy Smiley of Smiley's Joy Boutique.

"It would seem that the outlook does appear to be grim, however, I believe that the Fort Wayne community is a special one, and I believe that customers will all step forward as they have for many of the restaurants, come out and shop local," said Crissy Moloney with the Downtown Improvement District, which works to promote the interests of downtown Fort Wayne stores and businesses.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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