March was planned as a grand opening for a new street-front space on German Street in Shepherdstown. Honor Thomas had orders for spring merchandise being delivered to the freshly-painted shop and plans for an event-filled spring for her regular customers. “When the shut-down restrictions hit I stayed home for a week. I have a daughter who lives in Queens, in New York City, and hearing the stories from there, it seemed frivolous to be thinking about my hats and shoes.” Honor recalled, talking about the first week of the shelter at home restrictions. “It was odd for me, I’ve always been working and selling.”
“But I started to think about other times, when the country was at war, what did people do?” she continued. So at the end of that first week, Honor returned to her shop. As she stood with her back to the quiet storefront, staring at her idle sewing machine, an idea began to take form. A supporter of the Shepherdstown Day Care Center had donated yards of fine batik fabric collected from her travels in Asia. Honor had been working with her to organize a sale of the material as a fundraiser for the school. “These were very nice fabric panels, what you would use for table runners or a blouse.” Now the fundraiser was off, but the day care center still needed donations. Honor was ready with a new plan.
From a small corner in the back of her shop, Honor has been manufacturing masks every day since the end of March. “At first I was using ribbons that I had lying around, because I couldn’t get elastic. I sell them for $5 and donate all of the funds to the day care center. I have customers who come in and ask for custom masks, so I sew them to order and ask them to buy two.”
As soon as the state’s guidelines allowed retail shops to open, Honor unlocked her door. “I’m not seeing a lot of my regulars yet, which I completely understand. But I’m getting enough traffic to get by. Along with masks, I’m making baby hats. I’m lucky with the type of merchandise I sell — it’s seasonal but the styles are always in fashion. If I don’t sell it this spring I can sell it next year.”
During the shut down, Honor also thought about how she could expand beyond the retail store to connect with her customers. “I offered delivery and expanded the website,” she said. “I didn’t see a lot of interest and I realized that my customers come to the shop for the same reason I do — it’s an experience. I started my career in retail sales and it’s always been about the excitement of helping the customer and their appreciation. It’s why I decided to open a shop here.”
When asked about what she sees for the summer and beyond, Honor had a clear response: “We just need to get this year over. I refuse to go out of business. For me, it’s about coming to work every day. And believing one day, it will get better.”
Visit Honor D’s Fine Shoes and Hats at 121 West German Street in Shepherdstown (call 304-539-3236 for hours and assistance).By Staff Contributor