WILMINGTON, N.C. – Jim Downey's shop has been quiet for months now, except for the hiss of his blowtorch. Downey is a local glassblower in Wilmington but his business has declined significantly due to the pandemic.
“The second quarter of 2020, my revenue has not even been $1,000 a month,” says Downey. “My sales from my glass art business are going to be significantly lower than last year. I don't know how bad it will be”
His revenue has dropped by 50 percent since the onset of COVID-19 and he's already expecting to have a loss this year. When small businesses started closing, he lost his channels of distribution. The shops that are open and carrying his art are forced to operate at a limited capacity which means the customer base is already diminished.
Downey is doing anything he can to reduce expenditures and decrease stock, but he knows that impacts people beyond himself and he's concerned for others in similar positions.
“When I cut my costs, I'm not putting money back into the economy,” says Downey. “I'm able to keep my expenses down, but that's hurting all the other businesses around me.”
He's now trying to start direct marketing through social media like Facebook Live, but admits that isn't his strength. He loves having an audience to watch him work, he's just used to having it in person.
Downey has been blowing glass for almost 50 years and is known in Wilmington for his sea turtle art and holiday ornaments. At this point, he's unsure what sales will be this holiday season, if any.
“I can't predict what Christmas sales will be because a lot of the galleries that sold my stuff, they're not getting in touch with me asking me for glass,” says Downey.
With revenues down, he may not be able to afford the building and studio space he currently has. If the situation doesn't improve by next year, he'll be forced to consider downsizing, but he says he can't give up glassblowing; it means too much to him.
“I have a customer base that really loves my work and they will be heartbroken if I stop doing it so I won't stop doing it,” says Downey.