Emily Hay Brown at her boutique, Tulips in Little Rock. Photography by Jason Masters.
As a network of more than 3,000 small businesses, we’re paying close attention to how they’re faring in an age of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. In an effort to stay connected to our TSG community and share their stories, we’re “catching up with” different business owners every week to hear about their challenges, learn how they’re coping, and find out how they’re spending their time at home. Today, we’re checking in with Little Rock, Arkansas-based Emily Hay Brown, owner of the contemporary women’s boutique Tulips in Little Rock—a favorite destination for locals and visitors seeking out beautiful and wearable attire. Here, she discusses how she’s restructured her shop during the pandemic, the challenges of ordering new merchandise without attending markets, and finding joy in spending time with her family—particularly around the ping pong table.
What’s your business up to right now?
Tulips has been completely restructured during the COVID-19 crisis. I came together with my team and we became really creative. We took immediate markdowns on anything special occasion due to cancellations of graduations, weddings, fundraisers, and the list goes on, sadly. Then we got extremely focused on pushing website sales as our doors shut. Our website carried us through many long weeks, slowly bringing in new goods. We significantly lowered our price point and were only able to get limited quantities on certain pieces. I focused on bringing in extremely casual and items at lower price points.
“We are slowly adjusting, and are still optimistic about 2021.”
Your biggest challenge, professionally and/or personally:
One thing that remains challenging post-shutdown is that our merchandise and future orders have been stopped due to the impact COVID had on the coasts and we still have very limited access to goods. We feel positive that people want to shop and support local businesses, but we need to be able to get new merchandise, and then we must evaluate the economic loss we took on the days we closed along with not being able to sell the special event pieces as planned. It really has been detrimental since we will not be traveling to any markets until 2021. I’ve been placing orders remotely, which can be complicated, but we are slowly adjusting and are still optimistic about 2021 because new merchandise, when reasonably priced, has a 100% sell through. This so important because it gives us hope that the future that will drive the business will continue on despite the virus.
What’s bringing you joy:
What’s brings me joy is the extended time I have been able to spend with my husband and children. We moved out of the city right before the crisis onto a home on 16 acres and have hardly left. We spend a lot of time building gardens, raising animals, and living the simple life in a beautiful, peaceful setting.
What you’re watching/reading/listening to:
Right now I am reading A Convenient Death by Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper.
Your go-to snack:
My husband and I love cooking dinner together. Right now, we are obsessed with tomatoes from our garden, and making burrata salads with balsamic vinegar. We still have Pinot Noir from a trip to Italy that we pair with them. Since we are not traveling right now, it feels like a really special memory to hang on to.
Your favorite family activity:
Our favorite family activity is ping pong. During quarantine we have had some serious competitions. And we also like to spend time together boating on Lake Maumelle. Arkansas is home to so many natural lakes, and this one is a little more private and very peaceful and beautiful.
We are also super excited our children still get to attend camp at Kankakuk, a Christian-based sports camp in Branson. We feel like it’s a really good place for them to be right now. While they are at camp, we will be spending time at our “adult camp,” Big Cedar Lodge in Branson.
The local businesses/services you’re using this week:
My newest local spot is The Bramble Market, a source for local foods and goods in West Little Rock.