Owner Karen Malouf talks the drop in tourism traffic, a new website, and—after a shutdown—remembering just how fun work can be.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change rapidly, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
If you’ve been to Santa Fe, you’ve probably been to Malouf on the Plaza. Located in Old Town Santa Fe on the corner of the historic Santa Fe Plaza, it’s a hub of tourist activity, a jewelry-lover’s dream, and a passion for owner Karen Malouf. In the wake of the coronavirus, we asked Malouf to describe how her world has changed and how her team is responding.
As things start to open back up, what does your current business environment look like, and is it different than the norm?
We have recently opened up with practices to provide special care to our employees and customers. Many of the protocols are New Mexico-state mandated, and some are our own ideas to help assure safety for all. We have signs on the doors asking for all customers to wear masks, watch for social distancing, have hand sanitizers by each door and every 6 to 8 feet on our showcase counters, have a special spray effective with COVID-19 for all jewelry that customers try on, acrylic stands that are small and tall enough to sit on the showcase countertops so that we can be closer to our customers than the 6 feet suggested. We also have ultra-violet thermometers by the doors; however, some customers prefer not to have their temperature taken, which we respect their wishes. We furnished each of our staff members with thermometers so they can check their temperatures before arriving work. Of course, we ask the staff to wash their hands frequently, and have all kitchen, restrooms, and common areas cleaned throughout the day. This is a lot of work (and worry!) but it gives both our employees and customers peace of mind, when there is no guarantee against the virus. We do all we can to stay open for business, so that we can help support the many family members of our 12 employees.
We offer to meet at the store earlier in the day or stay later to help those who might feel more vulnerable.
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to the current situation?
Because we are mainly a tourist destination, our daily traffic is greatly reduced. We have customers that travel from all over the world, and with this virus, plane travel is most difficult and has slowed down tremendously. Hotels are restricted to 50 percent capacity in New Mexico, and all large summer events (i.e. Santa Fe Opera, Hot Air Balloon Festival, Indian Market, Folk Art Market, Spanish Market, and many more) have been cancelled due to social distancing and the fear of a second round of the virus. Our retail business and the success of our summer sustains us throughout the year. So this lack of traffic for the summer months will be felt until this time next year.
Has your business adapted to a more digital, remote environment?
We have an website that we established in 2013, and have been working since February of this year to create a new one. Who would have known that the new website would be so important to finish now! The new website should be up in a couple of months, and we are so excited! Loaded with videos from the artists, easier navigation, and interesting content regarding turquoise mines, kachinas, Navajo weavings, and our wonderful group of jewelry artists—speaking to their passions and inspirations for their one-of-a-kind creations!
Has anything changed in how you interact with your customers?
We text and email our customers more frequently with images and announcements of new arrivals. We offer to meet at the store earlier in the day or stay later to help those who might feel more vulnerable. We have provided curbside pick-up and delivered to folks’ porches for extra precautions.
After two and half months of shut down, we have realized and appreciated what team is, how much we care for each other, and how much fun “work” really is!
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
Native American rugs and weavings have picked up. Our Navajo weavings are more generally being considered for home furnishings, and not just considered by collectors.
Where have you found the most support for your business during this time—local customers, retail peers, stimulus packages?
We are so thankful for our PPP loan and our local bank, which allowed us to provide security to our employees and the ability for us to re-open quickly when the state announced the end of the New Mexico shut down. We were ready to get back to business, and confident in our very knowledgeable and wonderful staff members on our payroll!
Have there been any silver linings to your experience during this time?
Since we have always been so fortunate to have wonderful tourism business, this has forced us to focus on our online business—which we are in the process of creating a new website. Also, our staff is being more proactive with texting and emailing of images and “new arrivals” to their customers. And, with a smaller staff, we have learned to support and work together even better as a team. After two and half months of shut down, we have realized and appreciated what team is, how much we care for each other, and how much fun “work” really is!
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.