Interview With Beth Haschen, Owner Of Levity, N Harrison St., Easton
EEDC: After having to close in March, you continued to sell your boutique clothing line and connect with your customers through Instagram and Facebook posts. Now that you’re being allowed to reopen, will you continue to expand your digital footprint?
Beth Haschen: Before all this began, my goal was to have an online presence as of this summer. It’s something I’ve toyed around with for a little bit and kind of avoided. Now I’ve decided that an online presence isn’t vital for me. I can’t compete with a Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s even though I carry a lot of the same brands. But what I can compete with is the personal touch. I love what I do. I love my customers, and I love Easton.
EEDC: But you’re not ignoring an online presence, right?
Beth Haschen: Becoming a vendor and getting Facebook and Instagram approved is not an easy task. It is a whole process. So, I make do. I send videos to customers where I put things on and videotaped myself moving in it and that sort of thing. It’s not real high tech, but as I tell my customers, we’re kind of learning as we go, and I’ll do whatever we need to do.
EEDC: Do you think we are at the cusp of a shift in the way retail will be doing business?
Beth Haschen: I’m in agreement with experts who say that the way people will be shopping, especially retail, is going to change dramatically. The mall is dying, and a lot of the large retail stores are going online exclusively or almost exclusively. People are going to crave that personal interaction. They’re going to look for places where they feel safe, which is their local communities, their downtowns. They know the shop owners. What we need to do is instead of trying to compete with others online, we need to create a small-town experience for the customers.
EEDC: Sounds like you’re concerned with the local customers. What about the tourists?
Beth Haschen: We need to cater to local customers because they’re our base. The tourists are wonderful, and I’m happy that they come and shop, but our base is the local customer. Our customers may shop at Marshalls or ULTA on occasion, but my customers and those who only shop at those stores are not the same people, so we’re not competing with them.
EEDC: So, who is your competition?
Beth Haschen: We would be more likely competing with other small towns to keep our business here. Look, this is an excellent opportunity for small towns to rise to the surface and become what they originally were, before all the big retailers and online stores.
EEDC: What you’re saying seems to be quite an opportunity for the smaller businesses, no?
Beth Haschen: I believe that small businesses are going to fill that niche for personal communication. I do personal styling for people, not just with my store. I take them to other places. I shop for them online. So, I’m a one-stop shop. I want them to buy at my store, but if they don’t, if I don’t have it here, I’ll try to find it at another small business.
Look, if small businesses don’t work together, then none of us are going to survive. And honestly, if Easton doesn’t support small businesses, then they can just take a look at Salisbury or Cambridge and find out what happens when small businesses disappear.
EEDC: How can local businesses prevent that from happening?
Beth Haschen: I think even though we’re not in the same boat, we’re all in the same hurricane. I am stronger if everyone around me is strong, as well. If they fail, I fail. We are all in this together. As a community, we need to be involved and help each other. Maybe cross-promote or do a social media outreach? Something like that.
There’s no reason we all can’t work together well. We’re all so different. There are other clothing stores here, and we sometimes share customers. But we’re all so completely different, and that’s amazing; that’s beautiful.
EEDC: What advice would you give other small businesses?
Beth Haschen: I had a business in Annapolis for a long time, and I lived through the recession there, and the most important thing I learned is that you have to listen to what your customers want. Right now, my customers don’t want some of the items that I had ordered, so I’m pivoting, and I’m getting them what they want. They want comfortable stuff. I’m getting comfortable stuff. They need face masks, and for the short term, I’m selling the face mask. They don’t want to spend $200 on a handbag right now, so I’m bringing in a less expensive line.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring that stuff back, but for now, my customers rule the roost. I’m going to do whatever they need me to do.
EEDC: Speaking of, how are your customers dealing with your reopening?
Beth Haschen: Most of them I know are comfortable coming in here. When I have a mask on, and they see my hand sanitizer, and they see me cleaning, they’re very comfortable with that. There are other people that I don’t know as well, and they have said, ‘I’m not comfortable coming into the store,’ and I’m fine with that. I completely respect that decision. I will be glad to deliver it to them or put it in their mailbox. Again, it’s all about listening to my customers.
EEDC: At this point, what do you need to be successful?
Beth Haschen: I would like to see us close the streets of Easton. We need to make Easton more of a destination for people to want to come to visit, to do things, like the Fire and Ice festival. That was fantastic. That was a great weekend filled with people, and with shoppers. They were happy. They were eating in restaurants, and they were shopping in the shops. It was good for everybody.
Until then, you have to keep your humor. You have to stay positive, and you have to adapt. As my name suggests, you have to keep levity in your life.