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First Person: Small Business Owner Kaia Stahl

August 10 2020
City: 
Toronto

Anvil Jewellery is a familiar name in the Toronto Estonian community, operating since 1965 on Queen St. E. in downtown Toronto. Now in its second generation of ownership, Kaia and Guido Stahl offer a range of Estonian jewelry in gold and silver, as well as a great selection of other quality jewelry and services for every heart's desire. As a valued part of our community, EFC reached out to Kaia find out how 6 months of Covid restrictions had affected the business - what has changed and how have they adapted to survive and thrive in 2020.

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Although Estonians may know us mainly for our store, we actually have two businesses. 

Anvil Jewellery, a custom jewellery boutique in Leslieville is where we sell ready-to-wear jewellery we make at Anvil and that we select from other Toronto-based designers. We also offer a full line of services including custom design, redesign, repairs, appraisals, and engraving. And, we also have a B2B manufacturing studio where we cast and finish jewellery for wholesalers and retailers across Canada. 

Needless to say, paying two commercial rents during the lockdown was challenging. Overcoming adversity is tough mentally but one has to get creative, look for the silver linings and seek out new opportunities. The term 'pivot' is overused these days but that is exactly what one needs to do in response to a constantly changing marketplace! 

During Lockdown, we did a number of things to adapt our businesses:

-we created an online shop where we posted our Anvil inventory 
-offered incentives such as no HST on all online purchases 
-offered free contactless pick-up and delivery of repairs and custom work to Toronto-area customers
-diverted commercial shipments to our home when our commercial building was closed
-worked in isolation so we could complete work while adhering to the province's health & safety guidelines
-used social media to advertise and communicate with customers
-offered virtual meetings and consultations
-used our mailing list to keep in touch with existing customers
-communicated regularly with our local BIA and area business owners
-outfitted our shop with plexiglass guards and stocked up on PPE

What does Re-Opening look like now that we are in Stage 3?

The pandemic is, understandably, a frightening thing for many people so it's critical to make our customers feel comfortable and safe. We welcome walk-ins, but also offer customers the opportunity to book appointments when the store is closed to other shoppers. With plexiglass in place, we continue to disinfect all surfaces, practise social distancing and offer customers hand sanitizer and masks. Although these measures require extra work and expense, we have found them to be manageable as we do not have the high turn-over of customers that one would see in a coffee shop or grocery store.

We have also pivoted in terms of marketing strategy since re-opening. The price of gold has risen dramatically during the pandemic as it always does during times of economic uncertainty. In response, we're encouraging (more than ever), that clients bring in their old gold to receive credit towards custom orders, redesign projects and our ready-to-wear jewellery -- not only to save money but to support the idea of wearing sustainable, conflict-free jewellery! To this end, we've also started buying gold from customers interested in selling their unwanted/old or broken jewellery.

There is so much uncertainty right now but we are optimistic that things will continue to improve as long as people are willing to shop. Life and love are not cancelled! People will continue to get engaged and mark other milestones such as birthdays, Valentine's Day and Christmas with gifts of jewellery. They also prefer the in-person shopping experience when purchasing jewellery as opposed to other products - and they want to buy from someone they can trust!

Finally, I think one of the most important things we can do is to shop local. We live in a global economy, but now, more than ever, it's important to support small businesses and buy Canadian-made products whenever possible!

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EFC

The Estonian Foundation of Canada is a registered charity that supports Estonian cultural and heritage initiatives across Canada.

Charitable No. 891452575 RR 0001

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