While we’ve all been learning a lot about COVID-19 (side note: totally sounds like a supervillain plan name, right?) and how it spreads, I’ve been thinking a lot about how kindness spreads as well.
Last week in a bit of a panic, in my previous blog post, I was pretty honest about my fears for what might happen in the coming days due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
I was worried about local college closings, as we have an account with a local institution that basically pays for my salary outside of farmer’s market season.
Speaking of farmer’s markets and outdoor events, I worried we would lose those too.
I worried the Marathon would be cancelled. We have so much tied up in events in and around the Marathon, plus we just like it. We’re Boston’s Craft Cookie Company and we like making cookies inspired by the city that we call home. There is a lot of civic pride in the Marathon, even if you are more likely to eat 26.2 cookies than run 26.2 miles.
My mom says a lot of stuff (don’t all moms?) but I really wish I heeded her warning “Don’t borrow trouble, Heather”. I heard her saying it in my head the other night when I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about what was going to happen. I will never in my life work as hard at something as I have to build our little cookie company. I have stretched every penny; I have hired quality people and I think I’m a fairly good boss. I worried so much about my small staff. For some, it’s extra money. But for one of my gals it covers a portion of her living expenses which she supplements with earnings from another job that I knew would possibly be at risk.
With so much fear and uncertainty in my heart and in my mind, I did something I wasn’t sure about - I shared my fears in the open. I did not do it so that people would jump online and order cookies, I did it because I simply didn’t have anywhere else to put those feelings and emotions. I honestly had no idea that that blog post would spread like it did.
Let me go back to the Boston Marathon for a second, and things that I’ve been hearing in my head. Shortly after the bombing in 2013, my friend texted me from Michigan to see if I was OK. I assured her I was safe. She pressed further to see if I was really OK, because she’s a great friend. I told her that I knew she would see the best of my city in the days to come. I have been thinking a lot about that and how for a big city, Boston in many ways feels like a small town.
Fast forward to last week. Within a matter of six hours, I honestly felt like what I had spent six years carefully building would all of a sudden be all gone. We lost our college account for that week (they would later inform me that they were going online, and the order was on hold indefinitely) and our largest scheduled event of the month would be cancelled as well. Cash flow is always a challenge, but right around now is when events start getting going and hope springs eternal. Suddenly, I felt hopeless.
But then I looked at my order queue for the website and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The orders had started to roll in, but I was in such crisis mode, I didn’t realize how many had actually piled up. Some were from familiar names, friends and family, but more often than not they were first-time customers. I was blown away on again on Wednesday, as within a couple hours I was getting online orders with much regularity. In fact, a lot of these new to us customers enclosed notes of encouragement as well. I assure you, if you think you have lost your faith in humanity this week, I wish I could show you my inbox to prove otherwise.
I started to receive emails from a lot of our regular customers, and they were lovely. Mostly because we seem to really have awesome customers. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to keep up with the orders and it’s been hard because I’m stopping to include notes of gratitude and I’ve been brought to tears more than a few times.
Your orders made it possible for me to provide some stability to my small staff. We are working so hard to get things out and we are so grateful for the support!
We aren’t the kind of business that does well with social distancing. Many of our regular customers have received hugs from me. Most of our business is based on social contact, we bring out tent places and try to make friends. We don’t have jobs that we can work from home, which is ironic because our main office is my dining room table, but you catch my drift. Many, many people don’t have the ability to work from home and this situation is impacting them and it’s all happening so fast. My heart is broken for so many of my small business owner pals. We bake at CommonWealth Kitchen and it’s just sad in there right now; Everyone is dealing with cancellations and it’s like all of our businesses have come to a screeching halt. I saw one of our catering partners and just looked at her to say “hello”. Her response to me was “I got no cookie orders for you Heather. None”. I feel you my dear friend.
College is recessed, events are cancelled or postponed, and the marathon is delayed. I’m looking forward to the second Monday in September. We had our first marathon-related order scheduled for delivery last Friday and I knew on Wednesday that our customer wasn’t going to need the order. It was large and had custom labelling. The client worked so hard to find this order a home but kept being thwarted by constant office closings. Eventually, we ran out of options. Samuel Adams asked us to donate the cookies instead, which we did, and they purchased the order in full by credit card to ensure I didn’t have to wait to be paid. They followed up to let me know that since the rescheduled party in September would be a giant affair, they would not only like to repeat the order, but also increase the quantities significantly.
So, it’s not all bad. Far from it. I know every day is uncertain right now, but I can be certain about this: I will see the best of my city and not the worst. I hope you all can keep up the support for small businesses like ours. Please continue to tell us about them.
That said, the stark reality is that we are likely going to run out of cookies soon and I don’t know how much longer we will be able to produce or access our kitchen. As for the immediate moment and how you can help Top Shelf Cookies, I encourage you to do any of the following:
- Buy a Cookie of the Month subscription – a different flavor delivered to your doorstep monthly.
- By a subscription to one of your favorite flavors – our year-round flavors are available for monthly subscriptions as well.
- Buy digital gift cards – you can use them when this craziness ends, online or in person.
I can’t tell you enough how incredibly grateful I am for your support. I truly have seen the best of our city (and beyond) in the last few days.
With all my love & gratitude