Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Marla Balmuth is running her business the same way she did when she first opened Golden Galleon 40 years ago: by herself.

She says it’s like coming full circle. Although her husband is assisting with order deliveries for the women’s clothing shop, Balmuth no longer has a team of associates to help her after retail businesses were deemed nonessential when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued his stay-at-home order in March. While Balmuth says adaptafbility is key for running a successful business, the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy was not a change she was bracing herself for.

“When I think back on when I first purchased this store, it was one of the original shops in the harbor,” Balmuth said. “We’ve been talking about revitalization for the past 20 years. We finally felt with new management, we could get necessary upgrades to the harbor going.”

The Dana Point Harbor Partners were gearing up to begin parking improvements as part of their phased set of facelifts for the harbor ahead of this summer.

“When we were hit with this pandemic, I knew I had to figure something out,” Balmuth said. “This whole situation really pushed me to pivot. My business model has been completely rewritten in less than a month.”

Golden Galleon is now putting an emphasis on marketing products on its online store. Customers can even pick up their orders through curbside pickup at the harbor.

Marla Balmuth is celebrating Golden Galleon’s 40 years of business during a year of unprecedented economic fallout due to the coronavirus pandemic. She’s adapted her business to provide online and pickup orders. Photo: Lillian Boyd

Balmuth is also implementing social media in ways she never before thought she would embrace. With online, live-streamed “retail parties,” she’s able to show her followers merchandise and products.

“The first one in March was a success,” Balmuth said. “We received really positive feedback. Seemingly, everyone was ready to tune in. It was raining outside on a Saturday, so there was amazing response. I had people saying, ‘Let’s do it again!’ ”

Balmuth plans on holding another retail party on “Mini Retail Therapy Session” livestream on the Golden Galleon Facebook page on Thursday, May 7 at 10 a.m. ahead of Mother’s Day.

Vickie McMurchie, Dana Point Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, says that Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to reach out to favorite local retailers to see how you can support them while socially distancing.

“Before turning to nationwide chains like Nordstrom, Target, Macy’s, etc., community members should first consider seeking out options from our local community—in support of our neighbors and also ensuring that our tax dollars stay in Dana Point,” McMurchie said. “Most of our businesses have pivoted their operations and are making it easier than ever to shop and support with the help of online sales and curbside/no-contact service.”

A few local retailers are getting creative and offering virtual shopping experiences and shipping purchases to their customers, similarly to Golden Galleon, McMurchie says.

“A few local retailers have started selling masks, or including masks with purchases made above a certain price,” McMurchie said. “When possible, retailers are shifting from athleisure and their typical everyday wear and are now promoting their loungewear, as we obviously have a lot of people who are spending more time at home and are therefore looking for comfortable alternatives.”

The Chamber launched its #DanaPointLoyalLocal T-shirts for businesses in the community to sell. These T-shirts can be purchased at various local shops and restaurants either online or via curbside pickup (shipping options available). T-shirts come in sizes XS-XXL.

Participating businesses include Brio Tuscany Grille, Coffee Importers, Dana Wharf, Glasspar, Golden Galleon, Jon’s Fish Market, Lingerie Paradis USA, Luxe Restaurant & Martini Bar and Woody Hut. For more information on purchasing a T-shirt, visit danapointchamber.com.

“The (#LoyalLocal) shirts have been doing really well,” Balmuth said. “I’ve been shipping them all over the country. I’ve shipped them to Illinois to a couple who has come out to visit every year and always comes to Golden Galleon.”

Balmuth says she is humbled by all of the support from both the local community and visitors who have come to know and love Dana Point.

“I’ve had customers say they saw my live video, and they call to tell me they want me to send them one of those shirts,” Balmuth said.

For more information on becoming a retail partner, email vickie@danapointchamber.com.

“The business community all has mutual respect for each other,” Balmuth said. “We all need to survive. We are in this together. We need to lift one another up to get through this.”

But while retail businesses are adjusting to stay afloat, the circumstances are that much more restrictive for salons and beauty services. Carissa Collins opened her lash studio Killer Beauty last year and was embraced by the community, she says. Now closures have put deep financial strain on Killer Beauty and similar businesses, especially with no end date to the lockdown.

“The hardest part is not having an end in sight to properly prepare,” Collins said. “I am constantly having to prepare for the worst-case scenario while having hope for the best case with having no proof of either actually happening.”

Collins remains optimistic and focuses on the positive.

“We are getting to slow down and be human beings, not human doings,” Collins said. “People are more aware of themselves and what they do, and the actions of others, which I think is a great thing. We are all connected. . . . That’s pretty powerful.”

Carissa Collins opened her lash studio Killer Beauty in 2019 with hopes to provide a beauty service that emphasizes minimalist beauty. This photo was taken on Tuesday, February, 4. Photo: Lillian Boyd

While a date has yet to be set for nonessential businesses to reopen, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a set of guidelines on Tuesday, April 28 for businesses to follow once Gov. Gavin Newsom does issue that directive.

Collins says she has always worn a mask during services and keeps herself and staff educated on hygiene. As an esthetician, she is certified and licensed in sanitation maintenance and prevention in spreading infectious diseases. When doors reopen, she’ll go back to operating as usual but also disinfecting the doors and bathrooms more frequently.

“Before, people would feel alone in their suffering,” Collins said. “Now, they can look around and know that they aren’t alone; everyone is feeling this to some extent. I think that has brought, and will continue to bring, our community together and, my hope, even humanity.”

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