Jamie Bennett
Staff Writer

Thousands of small business owners closed their doors for good at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic without being able to say goodbye to their beloved customers. Marcie Natale, owner of The Gem Den, Bead Works, and Pottery Works, refused to accept that reality and was able to keep all three of her small businesses afloat with minimal issues during the pandemic.

“I expected some panic and brainstorming, but I knew we would be fine,” Natale says.

Gillian Green, a geology major at Millersville, works at all three sister shops. She only has positive things to say about Natale and the strategies she has taken in such an anxiety-ridden, time-crunched situation.

Instead of shutting all three of their doors, each of these businesses decided to run things differently. They started a zero-interaction delivery service for Pottery Works by having customers order on Facebook or over the phone.

“It was a huge success and saved our asses,” she says.

They felt minimal damage with the flow of business since they were able to switch gears to the Internet with ease.

The other stores, The Gem Den and Bead Works, planned Instagram live videos in attempts to sell items online. They did fair, but those two businesses did not compare to Pottery Works’ success, which was the main reason the owner was able to pay off the rent for all three venues. The Pottery Works hit the nail on the head because of the delivery procedures. There wasn’t enough demand for the jewelry and gem store for delivery options.

Since companies have been opening their doors back up with a mask-on requirement, things have been slightly different for each of the sister stores. Additional courtyard seating at Pottery Works has attracted a few customers, but overall, they have been slow since the re-opening. Bead Works has been hit the hardest, with little traffic that is only now starting to pick up.

The Gem Den, on the other hand, miraculously saw business boom after the doors were reopened.

“We can barely keep up,” Green explained. But they are figuring out ways to lead business from their (now) most successful stores into the stores that are struggling. “We try to push it at the Gem Den to go get stones wrapped which seems to be helping a bit.”

No matter how well the delivery service worked, all three stores experienced shutdown related damage.

“I think as a small business we got kind of rocked,” Natale says. “Paying three sets of rent and bills was insane. Obviously big businesses don’t have to worry that much about it. We

are completely woman-run and didn’t want to rely on anyone else. We drove sometimes nine hours a day delivering and picking up pottery, but it saved all the stores.”

Natale’s delivering strategies for Pottery Works is the reason all of these women still have a job with no struggles.

Lancaster city native, Emma Wolf, expresses her love and gratitude for the sister stores remaining open and keeping stable, along with many other gem-and-jewelry-lovers. Wolf says she loves going to The Gem Den to purchase stones, and bringing them over to Bead Works to make jewelry out of them, and would have been devastated if her routine was disrupted.

“There are no other stores like them around the area, and I sure as hell didn’t want to drive an hour to see some cool rocks,” Wolf says.

It’s clear that many customers share Wolf’s sentiments, since The Gem Den has been exploding!