Since March of 2020 businesses across the country and world have taken a hit. Many are still recovering financially from the Covid lockdown and are still looking for support. Throughout the pandemic, there had been a surge in support for Wellesely businesses. Yet as of late, a number of local businesses have gone under. and in Linden and Wellesley Square, many shops stand empty. Some could blame the pandemic, some could blame outside circumstances, but the true problem is the consumer.
Michael LaRoche is the owner of Pampered Puppies, located in Linden Square. It’s a place where you can train, groom, and leave your dog for daycare. Laroche has seen the struggles firsthand when it comes to the consumer. Pampered Puppies competes with online dog retailer Chewy when it comes to selling dog products. Pampered Puppies offers the same prices and the same 5% auto-ship discount, yet people still decide to go to Chewy because of convenience.
“Our company is different because we sell services, but I’ve had products sitting out there for months on end, people just go to Chewy even though we offer the same exact price, it’s not as much to do with Covid, as it has to do with the consumer in Wellesley,” said LaRoche.
Shani Defina has experienced and seen the two sides of the Wellesley consumer. Defina is the owner of Kenzie & Hope, a clothing shop located in Linden Square.
“People are dramatically going one direction or the other, I do find that there is a good group of people who have reinvigorated their commitment to shopping local, then I find that other, it is completely not on their radar, and they continue to rely on Amazon and larger online organizations.”
Defina hopes that the culture in Wellesley will change, and she hopes that more people will appreciate the small business and how much it helps the community.
“It is sometimes overlooked how local businesses fit into the fabric of the community. It isn’t just shopping at a store so that it stays in business, it is about working together as a partnership because the presence of that business actually elevates the community as a whole. local businesses are the ones helping support events and fundraisers,” said Defina
Defina intends to create a sense of community in Wellesley and is always open to working with high schoolers and the community. Not too far from Kenzie and Hope sits a company that also wishes to make memories with its customers. Linx camps have been a staple in Wellesley for years. Linx Camps were able to run summer camps each of the last two years without any outbreaks, leaving many parents content.
“At Linx camps, we continue to feel very supported, and I believe there’s still a lot of emotion and support for small businesses,” said Links owner Joseph Kahn
When asked what Wellesley students can do to help support local business, Kahn said, “Go to work for small businesses, when you go to work for a large chain or a large retailer you are just another number when you work for a small business there tends to be a lot more caring about you as an individual, it’s not just about shopping local, working local is also important.”
Like Linden Square, Wellesley Square has lost a lot of businesses in recent months leaving the town square feeling empty.
Demian Wendrow, President of the Wellesley Square Merchants’ Association and owner of London Harness, said “I think there needs to be a mindset change, and as we know this started before Covid, everyone was getting familiar with online sales direct to the consumer, those sales were rising on a yearly basis, and eventually as covid came along it only continued to go up. When things opened up and things started to get better, we saw a new following of our customers, we noticed a lot of new customers, especially from Wellesley, and that was encouraging that some people realized how important it is to support there downtown.”
Yet Wendrow believes there is still room to grow for the Wellesley consumer
“I think we need to continue to shop local and support our downtown community, and we want to make sure we are thriving, as well as the people who live in the area, and I think for high school students it’s important”
The Wellesley consumer is due for a change, and many consumers still heavily rely on websites like Amazon and other web services to get their items fast. Many don’t realize the impact that has not only on the small business but the community as a whole. Students should continue to shop and work at local businesses and try to strive away from relying heavily on online stores like Amazon, as a healthy downtown benefits the local economy, improves the environment by using less plastic, and allows for both business and students to thrive.