RICHMOND, Va. -- Finding a parking spot outside Lazy Daisy usually takes patience.
Not today. The cars have vanished.
Michelle Leshok closed her six stores to customers when the coronoavirus clamped down.
“It's just a different world," Leshok said. “Like it's just like a ghost town. Thursday to Sunday it is usually packed.”
Faced with wilting sales at Lazy Daisy, Michelle had a decision to make.
She could wait for the pandemic to pass or makeover her business model.
There was only one choice. Michelle took the Lazy Daisy digital.
“They’re able to come into the stores for a virtual tour," Michelle said.
She conducts shopping sprees on Facebook Live every day from Fredericksburg to Williamsburg.
“It's crazy. It goes by very fast. It feels like an auction. I feel like an auctioneer. We show them every little item. Every item." Michelle said.
It's a new twist on window shopping.
“They have me running. I am running. They’re like what was that. Go back. I’m crawling under things pulling things out. They want to see everything in the space. That is what we bring them. Every day," Michelle said. “Oh! They love it. They love it.”
Michelle has never been busier and her clients hungry for a deal eat up the chance to shop and bid.
“Sometime on the news feed there is a minute delay. They’re like, ‘Do you see me? Do you see me? You got it. You got it.' They’re so excited," Michelle said.
Buyers can choose curbside pickup or free delivery.
“She is trying to brighten our day. Steer us away from the negativity and that is what I like," customer Susan Dudley said.
Michelle says too many people depend on her, so should could not give up.
“The vendors are a small business and you want to keep them motivated and excited. They’re relying on you. They’re looking at you to do something," Michelle said.
Carolyn Dawson opened her booth March 15. The added income is a blessing.
“Not many places do that at all so she’s been a real blessing," Carolyn said. “It's been a win-win for both of us during this unfortunate time.”
Michelle never once thought of shutting down her salvation.
“The store is everything to me because that is what saved me. When I opened the Daisy that is what saved my life," Michelle said.
Nine years ago Michelle lost her pride and joy. Her son and his father where murdered by a stranger on August 26, 2011.
“He was my entire life, you know?" Michelle said. “Horrible tragedy. Seven years old. His name is Morgan Dean. Morgan Dean Alred.”
Morgan was her only child. Michelle opened her first shop in 2011, months after the tragedy, as a way to heal.
“My identity and my security is the Daisy," she said. “When you love what you do and you’re so passionate about it you’re never going to give up."
Morgan's memory fuels his mom every day. For as long as the lockdown lasts, Michelle vows to adapt and innovate.
“The messages I get every day are ‘Thank you for keeping my minds off of things” and “Thank you for making things normal," Michelle said.
Virtual success during these unsettling days means retail therapy for Lazy Daisy customers.
“It's wild. I don’t think they’ll let me stop," Michelle said.
And Michelle's bouquet of stores that goes far beyond her bottom line.
“We have a lot of new followers. It's fun. We give the people something to look forward to every day.”
Michelle's virtual shopping sprees unfold every day at different times and locations.
Even during the pandemic, Michelle is planning to open her seventh Lazy Daisy Location. Lucky number seven will be along Hull Street.
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