BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Normally at this time of year, Soul Sisters Boutique would hold a “Sip and Shop.” In past winters, festive music played, people enjoyed drinks and customers crowded the small business for their holiday shopping.
Soul Sisters — named a Basking Ridge Patch Business of the Year — opened three years ago in the heart of town. During an age of online shopping, the 25 South Finley Ave. store was different.
“The whole reason we started it was to offer customers an in-person experience,” said Julie Pascarella, who runs the store with her sisters, Donna Arnold and Lisa Plinio.
But you know the story of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic.
The three sisters founded the boutique in 2017 to highlight unique, artisanal products that enhance daily living. They display jewelry, personal accessories, home decor and gifts from designers all over the country.
They decided mid-March to close their store, even before Gov. Phil Murphy ordered a lockdown of “non-essential” businesses. Even though they had a website, they never set it up for online sales.
So they got creative. Soul Sisters talked to people through social media, took people virtual shopping and processed orders over the phone. Then they drove all over town to make deliveries, leaving packages on doorsteps and ringing doorbells.
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Even though New Jersey didn’t consider them an essential business, some of their products made a difference for customers.
“Shortly before the March quarantine, I bought a pair of fluffy pink slippers at the store,” said customer Christine Thoma. “Throughout those hard months at home, the slippers always picked up my spirits. They just sell beautiful stuff at good prices.”
Like almost all businesses in March, Soul Sisters had no idea when they could reopen. But they made it through the lockdown and reopened in June, with restrictions and plexiglass barriers.
The holiday season is a pivotal time of year for Soul Sisters, but they feel ready. They put their products online about a month ago — a tedious process but necessary given the pandemic.
And instead of the Sip and Shops, they held private shopping nights. A limited number of guests could come into the store and enjoy the festive atmosphere, bringing back the magic of years past on a smaller scale.
“They’ve always supported and really been interested in our little store, but they’ve really gone above and beyond during this whole period,” Pascarella said of their customers. “They always shop local, and they always ask how we’re doing, and they always want to know if we’re OK. They’re just really good people.”
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This article originally appeared on the Basking Ridge Patch