Sandi Lowry of Mia’s Marketplace talks about the trials and joys of owning a small business.
When Sandi Lowry moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania 10 years ago due to her husbands’ job relocation, she left behind not only her home place but also a corporate career with a large home decor importer. It was then she began to consider her lifelong dream of opening her own business. It has been a rocky road, but she has established an award-winning boutique called Mia’s Marketplace in Surf City. I talked with her about the history of her business and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone involved.
Getting her business off the ground in 2012 with her sister-in-law was difficult, but the process paved the way for others that followed.
“When we opened, we had a difficult time getting funding,” she says. “SBA would tell us you need two years in business or $250,000 in sales to get a loan. It was very frustrating, and fortunately we had a private benefactor to get us started.”
After one year in business, they chose to open a co-op type of store with the goal of empowering women who, like them, needed to get started in business and couldn’t afford to do so in their own brick-and-mortar store. They started The Shoppes at Mia’s in 2013 and are proud to say they have helped several women grow their passion into full-time businesses. They sold the Shoppes at Mia’s to their manager in 2014 and it is now called Coral Cottage Boutiques.
As the years have passed, Mia’s has become one of the many outstanding businesses in the Surf City area. In 2018 Lowry became the sole owner, and the future looked bright. Then Hurricane Florence made its historic appearance in September of 2018 and changed the landscape for all the local business owners. The local economy had just recently started to rebound from the storm damage when COVID-19 made its unwelcome appearance. So instead of 2020 being a rebound year, many businesses have had to close or offer limited services.
“Since we sell food products, we are deemed essential,” Lowry says. “However, we have made the decision to keep our staff and our valued customers safe and wish to encourage staying home. We employ six wonderful ladies during this off-season, and they are sheltered with their families at this time.”
In the wake of the stay at home order, Lowry decided to accommodate her customers the best way possible. Even though Mia’s is closed, customers can shop by phone or online and choose shipping, curbside pickup or even local delivery. So those birthday, Easter and Mother’s Day shoppers can still purchase their loved ones a lovely gift despite the circumstances.
Even though times are tough right now, Lowry says the support she feels from her customers is real.
“We are getting messages and calls of well-wishes, and it brings joy,” she says. “I miss our Mia’s girls and the loyal customers who shop with us. It’s important we stay connected during this time, even if we can’t be together.”
14061 N.C. Highway 50, Surf City