While some small businesses are struggling to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 crisis, Brittney Braemer and Suzy Hinnefeld are bucking the trend with plans to open second locations of their lifestyle boutique Handzy Shop + Studio and its companion for kids clothing, Gumdrop. The DAAP grads-turned-business partners announced on social media last week that their new locations will open in October in the historic West Fourth District downtown.
“A second location made sense for us because merchandising, designing the physical experience in our shops, and connecting with our customers in-person are our favorite things about our businesses,” Hinnefeld says. “With more retail space/square footage we can offer a wider range of products both online and in-store.”
Braemer notes that the pair had been planning to open a second location since mid-2019, polling customers online for their thoughts on where they’d like to see the new shops open. “We had been hinting at a second location, but when the pandemic began, we decided to pause on our plans for expansion,” she says. In June, the Covington residents posted on Instagram explaining that an expansion might mean something other than another brick-and-mortar spot. Andrew Naab, a Handzy customer and the director of commercial development for The Loring Group, saw the post and reached out with two spaces he thought would be perfect for Braemer and Hinnefeld’s plans. They agreed to view the properties and were sold almost immediately.
“The spaces are the perfect size, have the same historic charm as our Covington locations, and the best part is that the two side-by-side storefronts are connected on the inside,” Braemer says. “We are also going to be surrounded by some incredible neighbors and are excited to be a part of the West Fourth District community.” The shops will open at 324 & 326 W. Fourth St., across from Kinsey Flats.
While the duo prepares for their October opening, their Covington locations are back open with limited hours and new safety measures. Thanks to online sales and assistance from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, they were able to rehire the staff members they had to lay off at the beginning of the pandemic while the shops were closed. The pair used that time to add new user-friendly features to their online shops, including more filtering options for easier online shopping and the option to buy online and pickup in-store/curbside.
“We were blown away by the amount of support that we received from our community through online sales when we were closed,” Braemer says. “We alternated days at the shop so we could maintain distance from each other and focused on online sales with weekly promotions to keep our shops afloat. Because our shops both existed online prior to COVID, the transition to online only wasn’t too tricky.”
In addition to maintaining an online presence, Hinnefeld says Handzy and Gumdrop will bring new energy and fun to the West Fourth District’s business mix, which they believe will attract downtown residents, tourists, and office workers alike. “Our goal has always been to have something new and exciting for you to discover each time you come to Handzy and Gumdrop,” Hinnefeld says. “We will continue to do that in our new locations.”