“All you can do is try to be forward-thinking and responsive,” says Yellow Springs Toy Company Owner Jamie Sharp about doing business during a pandemic. (Photos courtesy of Jamie Sharp)
Yellow Springs Toy Company is the only remaining Black-owned retail shop in the village.
• Shift to e-commerce “helped keep the lights on”
• Inflation, supply chain and staffing issues remain a challenge
By Mary Evans, Elevate Dayton
June 7, 2022
The owner of the only Black-owned retail store in Yellow Springs hasn’t let COVID-19 shutter her business, but don’t confuse Jamie Sharp’s focus and fortitude with overconfidence.
Sharp’s Yellow Springs Toy Company has endured serious financial hardship over the past two years. And while the business is rebounding, Sharp also is having to navigate supply chain issues, rising inflation, and the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine. Plus, the emergency disaster relief loan she received must be repaid starting this year.
“I did have a three-year and five-year plan, but when a crisis like COVID interferes, those plans go out the window,” Sharp said. “In addition to all of the major economic factors affecting the entire business landscape, staffing and maintaining a safe environment have been challenging.”
If you are a woman, veteran or minority business owner, Elevate Dayton wants to hear how you are faring and what would help you to thrive. Please take our business owner survey.
In the first stages of the pandemic, patrons were not permitted to shop in the store. So Sharp added online ordering to the company’s website and began offering curbside pickup, local delivery, and shipping across the country. When customers were finally allowed to shop in-person, Sharp made sure to create the safest experience possible, frequently disinfecting display products to minimize the spread of the virus.
“Toy stores are ‘high-touch environments. Children come in and touch toys and test the toys for play,” she explained, noting it was extra challenging when kids could not get vaccinated and some customers didn’t want to risk exposure.
Being able to take orders through the website generated a fraction of the revenue she is accustomed to—“just barely enough to keep the lights on”— but it helped her survive.
“I really want to take the website to the next level, but with one person doing the updates and working in the store, it is challenging,” she said, noting that she is updating the site herself since those kinds of projects can be costly.
In the four years since it opened, the Yellow Springs Toy Company has been voted “Best Toy Store” in the Dayton area five times by two different publications. Given Sharp’s business survival skills, those awards are probably not the last.
“This has been the hardest time to be in business in recent history,” Sharp said. “All you can do is try to be forward-thinking and responsive.”