It’s been a tough year for Keynan Ammons and his little gift and decor shop in northwest Fresno.

Ammons Design & Home Decor was less than a year old when the coronavirus pandemic hit and it was forced to shut down as a non-essential business.

The shop, at the southwest corner of Marks and Bullard avenues, closed for seven months – longer than it had to because its owner was being extra careful and was hesitant to invest money in inventory that might not sell.

“I took even more precautions because most of my clients are 40 and up, and I just felt like it was a responsibility of mine to do that,” he said.

Because the shop was less than a year old, it didn’t qualify for any government loans or grants.

Now that the shop has reopened selling wreaths, candles and other gifts, business isn’t anywhere close to normal, Ammons said.

“Things are much slower than they were last year. Customers are very afraid,” he said. “It forced me to try and reinvent myself.”

Gifts and decor like these are for sale at Ammons Design & Home Decor, which opened in Fresno last year. Bethany Clough The Fresno Bee

Small Business Saturday

It’s a similar story at stores all over Fresno as they gear up for Small Business Saturday and the rest of the holiday shopping season. Locally owned businesses have always faced an uphill battle when compared to big-box stores, competing with massive marketing budgets and the ease of online shopping.

With customers trying to avoid contracting COVID-19, even more are turning to online sellers this year. Target, for example, saw its online sales surge 155% in the last quarter.

That spells bad news for small businesses, with research firm Alignable finding that 48% fear they might not earn enough in the fourth quarter to survive.

Locally owned businesses tout the importance of shopping local. More money stays in the local community – $68 for every $100 spent with locally owned stores, compared to $43 when buying at big chains.

“That’s important. That means we’re putting money back into our communities,” said Ammons, noting he buys honey to sell in the shop from a Kingsburg beekeeper, who buys his jars at the local hardware store, which gets them from a local glass company.

This year, stores like his are getting creative to bring customers in.

Many have started selling online, adding an expense and infrastructure they had avoided in the past. Keep reading to see a list of them.

Others are doing curbside pickup, or offering other accommodations.

Ammon’s is offering private shopping appointments from 10 a.m. to noon every day but Sunday, where customers will have the entire store to themselves. He recently had a customer with stage 4 cancer who didn’t want to risk being around a lot of people make an appointment to shop, for example.

Here’s a look at what small businesses are doing and how to buy local safely.

Shop outdoors

Health experts say being outdoors is safer than indoors when it comes to COVID-19. Several crafters and other vendors typically sell at events in the Fresno area, but there’s even more this year.

The Vineyard Farmers Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues is hosting gift vendors from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in November and December. They’ll be selling tie-dye, pottery, and baked goods.

Ballis Glass Open Market will host vendors selling art, jewelry, food and more from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27 at 2888 Sunnyside Ave.

Basilwood Farm, a Prather goat farm, is hosting a holiday pop-up event at 15759 Morgan Canyon Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5.

Curbside pickup/appointments, etc.

Lots of retailers offer curbside pickup – too many to list here. Call your favorite retailer to see if they do.

Ammons Design & Home Decor offers private shopping appointments from 10 a.m. to noon every day but Sunday. Call 559-801-5163 to schedule.

Crazy Squirrel Games & Toys does phone and video shopping and curbside pickup, in addition to selling online. 559-431-0188.

Foliage, a Clovis plant store, offers private shopping by appointment, and pickup and delivery. It also sells via its website and Instagram. Make appointments online or by calling 559-797-1550.

Petunia’s Place, a children’s bookstore, is making appointments so shoppers are guaranteed a chance to shop if the store reaches capacity. There may be other shoppers in the store. It also does sales over the phone, with storefront pickup or shipping of purchases. It’s part of a bigger online book seller and gets a percentage of its sales.

Ventura TV Video Appliance Center does sales via phone, text, online chat and has information about most of its products on its website.

Buy local online

More local retailers than ever are selling online, although they may not have the marketing budgets to advertise that.

Anzula Luxury Fibers, a local yarn dyer and seller, also sells its goods online.

Basilwood Farm is a Prather goat farm selling soaps, bath bombs and similar items made with goats milk.

California Gourmet Co. (formerly Bouquet of Fruits) sells gift baskets online that include fruit, chocolate-covered goodies and more.

Crazy Squirrel Games & Toys sells all kinds of games, including board games, puzzles, stuffed animals and more.

Dragon’s Treasure owner sells his handmade silver and bronze jewelry via

Enzo’s Table sells its olive oil online, along with gift boxes of various nuts, fruits and spreads.

FresLoCA makes modern earrings and other jewelry with a funky twist,

Happy House sells home goods, art, and self-care items online.

Hocus Pocus magic shop sells magic trick kits, books and cards.

Janna’s Needle Art sells yarn, knitting and crochet tools and more online and by appointment.

Just my Essentials, the Old Town Clovis business that was vandalized earlier this year, sells skin and body care products.

KLSD, a downtown business, sells “Be a good human” T-shirts and other gifts.

Nonnie’s House Boutique sells high-end clothing and Brighton jewelry.

Ooh La La sells women’s clothing, footwear and accessories.

Make Pie Not War’s owner makes earrings, pendants and more from her garage studio.

Pum Bum Society sells modern clothing, shoes and jewelry.

Professor Toy educational toy store sells toys, arts and crafts, and science-themed gifts online and offers curbside pickup.

Repeat Performance, the Tower consignment shop, sells clothing, shoes and home goods on eBay as Repeat Performer.

Revival 23, a Clovis-based retailer, sells clothing, and lots of home and gift items.

Root General Store, a downtown retailer, sells “the future is Fresno” clothing, and lots of other gift items.

Sierra Nut House’s online shop features gift bags that can be filled with nuts, fruit and other goodies.

Tagua sells fair-trade gifts handmade by artisans, including colorful baskets, clothing and kitchen items.

Valparaiso, a downtown coffee shop, sells coffee beans from all over by the pound.

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.

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