Gorgeous and unique flower arrangements, delicious chocolates, beautiful and hard-to-find giftware – Bloomers and the Brownhouse Chocolates has been bringing something sweet and special to Thunder Bay for 13 years. Owner Margaret Phirbny turned a stately period home into a true destination shop that drew plenty of foot traffic.

All that came to an end when the pandemic struck. Margaret realized she had to look at alternative ways to remain a viable business. She applied for and received a Digital Transformation Grant from Digital Main Street (DMS) and took advantage of its free help and resources to bolster her online presence and e-commerce storefront.

Running the store on her own and admittedly not tech-savvy, Margaret chose to hire a social media expert to build her presence through Facebook and Instagram, and as she expected, more Instagram followers led to more sales. Through January and February of 2021, she says her eyes were opened to the possibilities of social media and e-commerce.

During the pandemic, Margaret and her social media expert fielded questions and orders coming through social media and her e-commerce storefront, powered by the Flower Shop Network. By staying on top of her online presence and providing curbside pickup, she was able to achieve 80 percent of pre-pandemic revenues, keeping Bloomers open and thriving. She’s also attracting a much younger demographic now, and that’s a foundation she can build on.

“DMS helped us build our virtual presence and communicate with our customers,” says Margaret. “They find us online and then come to the store to experience and purchase our products. The future will be a mix of store and e-commerce, and we’re ready.”

Next on Margaret’s to-do list are social media ads for the rare and exotic plants that she stocks. She looked at doing videos of her store interior but decided that although her store is “jammed lovely,” on film it just seemed cluttered. Now she’s eyeing tutorial videos to create a more personal connection with followers and promote products organically.

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