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The stay-at-home order in Illinois has forced all non-essential businesses to shutter their doors through April 7. But in an effort to stay operational, some businesses are turning to new ways to reach their customers.
True North, an antique and craft mall in Morris, will host a "social distancing shopping party" on Tuesday, March 24, turning to technology to keep their doors open, so to speak, with their first-ever shopping event through social media.
"True North is usually open seven days a week, all year long, we only close for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. So, today (Monday) is only our second day that we've ever been closed in a row," said Stacey Olson, owner of True North. "We're already having cabin fever, just like everybody else in the world. So, we're taking online shopping to a different level."
True North will host their shopping party via Facebook Live, starting at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
"We are trying our best to make this happen," Olson said.
The Facebook Live event will feature Olson in a walk through of the 6,000-square-foot store at 539 Bedford Road in Morris while another employee — through Facetime on her phone — will give comments and information on items.
"He's social distancing, so he's going to be in the comfort of his own home," Olson said. "People on their couch are going to be able to see him. He'll be commenting on the items, and then he'll be replying to people who are texting online."
True North includes 70 vendors who sell items from re-purposed antiques and crafts to candles, jellies, jams, lip balm, and salsas. The online sale will help support small business owners throughout the region.
"We operate as a little family," Olson said. "These 70 vendors are all from the Midwest. We have some from Milwaukee, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, the majority of them are from Illinois, and not just Morris, from Mazon all the way up to Chicago, Elgin, Frankfort, everywhere. They restock their booths, 80% of our store is vintage antiques and recycled products. The others are what we call our Midwest makers, and they are all people who make items that are beyond what you would expect from a craft show."
Olson said True North will work to make the event as enjoyable as possible for customers, as folks seek a bit of fun and normalcy through the stay-at-home order.
"To make this even more fun, and more different from the online shopping experience, we have purple tags on all the items that we're going to talk about," she added. "We have 70 booths, and in each booth will be a mini-game of I-spy. So, we're going to spin the camera around so people at home can try to find the purple tag in the booth, and then we'll talk about the items."
All of the items shown during the event will be available for purchase, helping to put money into the pockets of businesses to help keep them afloat.
Items can be arranged for a no-contact exchange via pickup outside the store.
"They text us that they're on their way and we'll put the item outside the door and they can swing by and grab it," Olson said. "Our store has plenty of windows, so we'll be watching them pick it up."
For those who cannot pick up their items, True North will hold those items in their storage space inside their building until the store is open again.
"At this time, we're not shipping anything, because that would just cause the shopper to have more of an expense," Olson said. "We're trying to make this affordable for everybody, affordable for them to support the [vendors]."
Olson also encouraged people to reach out if they are seeking specific items.
"If somebody needs something and they can't find it at the store, let us know," she said.
Olson said the event is designed to support local businesses, but not to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.
"We try to include fun in everything we do. We have an indoor swing, we have a disco ball, we have our Yogi Bear ice cream truck out front," Olson said. "We just try to make shopping an adventure, we try to make it fun. We know all of our products are not essential, although we think they are.
"We're trying to get through this like everybody else," Olson continued. "We understand that this is a very serious thing, we're just trying to put the True North spin on it and make it so that everybody is not just hearing negative information all day long."
Additional information on True North can be found online at shoptruenorth.com.