We need your support right now.
A glimpse behind the scenes of Mast Shoes amid the pandemic.
You’ve probably heard that small businesses are struggling right now. Really struggling. Mast Shoes is no exception. Our beloved (and until recently very successful) business model of welcoming you into our beautiful new store to assist you with in-person shoe fittings does not work during a pandemic. There’s no way around it. And trust me, I’ve spent countless sleepless nights battling reality, looking for creative ways and any loophole around the fact that our Mast Shoes is currently near dead in the water. And will be until we can safely re-open our doors. Our sales are down 97% from our usual, reliable April sales. This is catastrophic for a sales-driven business like ours, whose daily sales normally cover rent, salaries, health insurance, utilities and the super-biggie, our inventory invoices every month.
Our shelves are bursting with spring shoes and sandals carefully chosen by our buying team that boasts over 200 years of combined shoe fitting experience. We invested in these shoes for their superior fit characteristics, support and style. And mostly because we thought you, our dear customers, would love them. It’s sad we can’t invite you in to shop.
Our Spring 2020 collection arrived in February, when the coronavirus was just a nagging tick of a worry on the edge of our collective awareness. All those shoes arrived when we were planning for the “big” problem of our portion of the Westgate mall going under construction, just as foot-traffic starts to pick up every Spring. That problem was obviously eclipsed by a much bigger, life-threatening problem. A problem so big, none of us were prepared.
One of our biggest problems is that we have a store-full of really great shoes with limited means of getting them on your feet.
I’ve been asked two questions every day by well-meaning friends, colleagues and customers. My guess is you’re itching to ask me these same questions so let’s get right to them with this Q and A.
1. Can I buy your shoes online?
Yes, you can. And please, please do! This is our only current source of revenue (this is where the 3% of our usual spring sales are coming from). Every sale helps.
Thank you to those who have used it. It has been working very well so far.
We’re asking that you purchase shoes that were previously fitted in by us in-person. For example, if you’ve been enjoying a pair you purchased from Mast Shoes that are now worn out (or nearing that point), order another one. We’re calling them “refills.” Maybe you want to buy a back-up pair for the future to support Mast Shoes now. When you dig your sandals out when the weather finally warms up, it’s possible they won’t feel and look as good as you’d like. Order a “refill” from our online shop. All of our sandals will be posted by May 1st.
There are “refill tips” on how to determine what size you currently have in each product description in our online shop.
Framing the use of our online shop this way allows us to stay true to our mission. Our mission has always been to accurately match your unique feet with shoes that fit properly, feel great and keep you moving through your activities with as much ease as possible. Using our our online shop as a “refill” shop ensures you get shoes that we can both be confident will work well for you. We’ll wait to try new models until we can safely do that in person.
Returns, exchanges and pandemics don’t mix well. It isn’t going to do you or us any good to have you order shoes that don’t have a really good chance of fitting. Again, think of our online shop as a shoe “refill” shop.
If you’d like to order something you don’t see in the shop yet but think we probably have, give me a call at 734-662-8118 and I will help you over the phone. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I will call you back within 24 hours (Monday – Saturday).
You can also support us by ordering gift certificates for future in-store fittings. We all need something to look forward to.
You can find our online shop here:
2. Have you applied for the PPP loan?
This is the second question I get asked most often. Yes, we have. On the first day applications were being accepted. The day after the headlines hit the news that the $350 billion ran out, we got a call from our banker saying he had “bad news.” Our application was submitted but didn’t get looked at before the money ran out. OK (deep breath). To say that this news was angering after hearing that Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse was approved for $20 million is a massive understatement. The amount we qualified and asked for was a teeny-weeny-teeny-tiny fraction of $20 million and would have provided significant relief to our small business.
I ate lunch, got less h-angry and reminded myself of my belief that our community of customers will pull us through this, if we provide an easy way to buy shoes and gift certificates during our temporary closure. I moved on to uploading more inventory to our new online shoe shop and answering the phone to hear a handful of customers’ voices (thank you!).
My dad and business partner Greg, provided some perspective– “It’s only another loan.” Mast Shoes is no worse off than it was an hour before I got that call. The banker was hopeful there would be more funding and he encouraged me to call my elected representatives (yet again) to urge them to work for more funding. He said he’d submit our application as soon as more funding was available. I’m not holding my breath.
Similar to most small business owners I know, I’ve shifted from thinking “ok, let’s do everything we can to get some of that federal relief funding (WOW that’s a lot of $, I can’t even imagine how much money that is, there must be some for us) to “ok, let’s wrap our heads around how much debt we’ll need to accumulate to float the business through this likely prolonged health crisis.” And that’s ok. It’s the new normal most small business owners are facing. To me, it’s preferable to going out of business, which is another painful reality many small business owners are facing right now. I’m grateful we have access to other kinds of loans. Taking out more loans isn’t ideal and it’s going to be a long road to recovery, but hey, I (and many of my team members) have a lot of working years ahead of us.
Speaking of the team, there’s no one else I’d rather tackle the next few years with than this amazing group of humans (all safely home right now). Here’s how we do weekly staff meetings.
While access to loans is very important in this situation, what’s even more important and vital to our success is you. Mast Shoes will not survive without your support.
I’m defining “you” as any wonderful human we’ve had the pleasure and honor of doing business with at some point in time over the past 78 years.
You can support us by doing one or more of the following:
I don’t know anyone who wants to come out of this pandemic with only three shopping options left (Walmart, Amazon & Costco). Unfortunately, we were heading in this direction before this crisis and the pandemic is playing right into these behemoths’ hands. AND if we want a different outcome, we need to resist the ease of spending money with them for every single purchase and make a little extra effort to support our local retailers. Think of your extra effort now as an investment in our community’s future.
3. Share our online shop link & and the importance of buying local right now on social media (Nextdoor, facebook, twitter, instagram, or wherever you’re hanging out online right now). Please help me with this! You may have noticed I’m social-media challenged.
I’m grateful we have loyal customers like you who want to keep Mast Shoes going. With the support of our customers, adjustments to our business model (that stay true to who we are) and the return of our phenomenally talented team, I’m confident Mast Shoes will make it to it’s 100 year anniversary.
We plan to re-open when it’s safe to do so. I’m requesting your support, enthusiasm, patience and cheer-leading as we continue putting one foot in front of the other.
On behalf of our entire team and all the Mast Shoe-dogs that came before us, thank you. Mast Shoes wouldn’t still be here without you.
Molly Mast-Koss (she/her)
3rd Generation Owner/Operator