SOUTH LOS ANGELES, Calif. — When Los Angeles shut down due to COVID-19, retail businesses — from mom-and-pop shops to big box stores — were suddenly under threat of closing down for good. Small business owner Amorette Brooms had been selling fashion for the last 10 years out of her 200-square-foot shop, Queen Boutique, but knew immediately her business model had to change.

"On Mother’s Day weekend, the city decided to reopen, but only flower stores and nurseries can reopen, so I decided to sort of reinvent my store into a flower shop for the day," said Brooms.

What You Need To Know

  • In L.A. County, essential retail businesses include cannabis, pet supply, food providers, hardware, and building supply stores and nurseries

  • Black Book L.A. publishes a list of Black-owned businesses in Los Angeles

  • CDPH released guidance broadly requiring the use of face coverings for both members of the public and workers in all public and workplace settings where there is a high risk of exposure

  • Majority of Queen Boutique’s sales occur over social media

Brooms went to the Flower District, bought flowers wholesale, and made some bouquets to sell on the sidewalk.

“I sold out of them luckily, but I was nervous the whole time that if I didn’t sell them, then there goes my money,” she said.

From fashion to flowers and then to plants, Brooms decided to pivot and took a crash course in a different industry. She taught herself how to deal with wholesalers and scoured nurseries to learn where to buy the healthiest plants for her new customers.

“It’s just been incredible,” said Brooms. “We’ve met so many people and we feel like we built a community within our community of plant lovers.”

A plant mom herself, Brooms feels with more people working from home due to the pandemic, they now have the time and energy to prioritize their living spaces.

“I think during this time, people have really started getting into their gardens more and wanting cool house plants for their home, for their Zoom,” she said.

But Brooms also recognizes her customer’s affinity for plants is more than aesthetic.

“I’ve noticed that within the Black community, there’s just been a huge movement to have a reconnection to the Earth, like it’s a spiritual thing and it’s helping us heal,” she said.

Thankfully, the change has been so fruitful the business owner had to recruit friend Brandi Anne Cartwright to help, and their approach is holistic.

“We’re letting Mother Nature and our clients lead us,” said Cartwright. “When they ask for a specific type of thing, we’ll go that direction and then you can only buy so much. Mother Nature will only populate so much at a time.”

The shop may be small, but for Brooms, that’s been a huge advantage.

“Big businesses are failing and not knowing how to adapt to this new reality, whereas small businesses, we might not have all the resources, but we can move on our feet quickly and we can change and adapt, and I just think that anybody who has a good idea should just go for it now,” she said.