NOVATO (KPIX) — A year ago, many businesses were shut down and isolated from their customers. Now, with the end of the state’s tier-restrictions just days away, one business owner in the town of Novato reflected on her pandemic experience and her struggle to survive.
If there is a Main Street in Novato, it is Grant Avenue. A year ago, the street was largely empty and most of the shops dark. It was illegal for customers to enter.
Today signs of life have returned. People are walking the sidewalks again and diners are eating at restaurants as they listen to live music. While not every business survived, those that did are being embraced by a grateful public.
“You know, you see restaurants that couldn’t make it and there are a few favorites of ours here on Grant that have,” said resident Brett Jones. “So it’s good to see that they made it through the struggles and they’re coming out,” said resident Brett Jones.
If there were a prize for persistence, it might go to Vonnell Osmidoff, owner of Island Glow resort wear and tanning salon. A year ago, unable to display her clothing outside, she struggled to survive in her tiny 130-square-foot space with windows so small that people didn’t understand it was even a business.
“You still can’t see my store!” she said, pointing at the tiny sliver of a window. “You see the mannequin but you don’t see anything going on.”
Osmidoff never gave up. She refocused her efforts, looking for ways to improve her business model and now, with the pandemic seemingly in the rear view mirror, she is set to move into a new building two doors down — one with huge windows to show the world she’s still here.
“It’s been a long road,” Osmidoff said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I’m really lucky that I have great clients that do support me, you know? They still call and maybe they’re not coming in yet but they’re planning on it.”
As she spoke, customer Teri Tabudlo-Richards happened by to say she wanted a dress hanging in the tiny window. Osmidoff was so grateful, she gave it to her as a gift.
That’s what it’s like in a small town.
“Yes, yes,” said Tabudlo-Richards, “the whole town is like family.”
There’s no doubt COVID-19 did a lot of damage but Osmidoff said it also made her a better businesswoman and a better person.
“I actually think it helped a lot of people,” she said. “I think we needed a break from our selfishness and all the stuff that we have and maybe we stopped and thought about others a little bit more.”
Osmidoff says she plans to move into her new building at the beginning of August and it will have a new name — the Hula Honey Boutique. She said that, after what everyone has been through, she wants people who enter the business to feel they are on vacation.