Stacie Tranchina and Lori Davis thought twice about opening Sweet Simplicity, their Massapequa boutique, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We had actually come to sign the lease with our husbands and as we pulled up, we got the call the schools were shutting down, back in March," Tranchina says. "We hesitated a little bit, and ultimately by the summer had everything signed, ready to go, and started moving in."
Since its September 2020 opening — at state-regulated 50% capacity — Sweet Simplicity has allowed customers to try on clothes but sanitizes each garment before it goes back out on the rack.
Business has been better than expected, says Tranchina, who’d previously operated an online boutique.
"We have a lot of support from the community. People, I think, are eager to get back to normal and to be out shopping," Tranchina says, adding that many shoppers want to avoid malls during this time.
Business was so much better than expected at Red Barn Boutique in Bellport, which opened July 10, that owners Shea Rosario and Jessica Fauci moved to a space around the corner that’s three times larger to meet the need.
"Neither of us ever did retail," says Rosario, who, with Fauci, operated via e-commerce and pop-up shops before opening the storefront. "We are completely obsessed with farmhouse décor and always redecorating our homes, and we just felt there was nothing out here in Suffolk County like this."
In addition to home décor, Red Ban carries a section of comfortable, everyday women’s dresses, shirts, loungewear, and bags.
"We have nothing high-end," Rosario says. "We have a very moderate price point, which is what everybody seems to appreciate."
Bowing to prevailing times, with people not going to weddings and other fancy occasions, Red Barn doesn’t carry any dressy clothes. "We pretty much shifted to all loungewear, and that’s what sold," Rosario says.
Despite getting off to a good start, the duo has encountered problems procuring merchandise in a timely fashion from their Los Angeles-based vendors, who’ve had difficulty retrieving goods from local ports during the pandemic. "So, things have been extremely delayed," says Rosario, who is also trying to source more local vendors.
Cozy 'N Cute Kids, an online shop specializing in clothes for newborns, toddlers, and kids up to size 7T, launched on June 1, 2020.
"We specialize in everyday children’s clothing, comfortable items that kids will love, lots of sweatsuits, shorts and pants and T-shirt sets, lots of rainbows, animal prints," says owner Priscilla Wesson.
She says it was "crazy" launching in the middle of a pandemic. "But I think it actually worked in our favor to open an online store. People were super hesitant about shopping in stores, especially bringing their kids along with them."
Wesson, who resides in Middle Island, doesn’t plan to open a brick and mortar store anytime soon.
"I like the flexibility of being online. My kids are still very small, so I don’t want to have a physical location quite yet," says Wesson of her daughters, Jade, 4 and Iris, 2, who she relies on — especially Jade — to help choose items to sell.
"It’s just been tricky trying to figure out the best places to market," Wesson says. "Most of my sales come from Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising."
Shopping and snapshots in one
When Lexi Zanghi opened Always Reason in Huntington on Oct. 10, 2020, business took off right away and was thriving until a February and March slump.
"Before that we were doing great. We didn’t worry about rent. We had enough to keep getting new arrivals. We were good," says Zanghi, who also offers Instagram photo shoots with unique backdrops in her shop for her customers.
The store’s proximity to the large Christmas tree the Town displays proved a boon to business through the holidays.
"Whenever the college kids are home, we do better. But when school is in, it’s definitely more dead," she says.
Always Reason carries clothes and accessories for women of all ages, notes Zanghi, who plans to eventually add a luxury section. "But mainly we focus on contemporary, trendy clothes."
"I personally feel like we’ve done very well," Zanghi says. "It makes me very excited to see a world without COVID, so I could finally compare the two."
Always Reason: 27 Wall Street, Huntington; 631-275-3412, alwaysreason.com. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Prices: From $8 for earrings to $130 for dresses
Cozy 'N Cute Kids: 631-714-7157, cozyncutekidsboutique.com.
Prices: From $14.99 for T-shirts to $44.99 for sweatsuits
Red Barn Boutique: 146 S. Country Road, Bellport; 631-803-0671, redbarnboutiqueny.com. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Prices: From $35 for shirts to $60 for loungewear sets
Sweet Simplicity: 9 Central Ave., Massapequa; 516-882-4410, shopsweetsimplicity.com. Open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Prices: From $25 for tank tops to $75 for jeans