with Sharon Purvis

    Paige Bowser, CEO and Maker-in-Chief at Breezy Quarters

    I spoke to Paige Bowser, CEO and Maker-In-Chief at Breezy Quarters, a brick-and-mortar and online store that makes and No-Melt Lip Balm, soap, lotion, bath, candles, scent and skincare products from natural, sustainable, mostly plant-based ingredients (goats milk and beeswax being the chief non-plant ingredients). A former teacher, Paige started selling her product line at the local farmers market and grew her business into a shining star of Abbeville’s growing small business community. Currently, it’s her soap—and her newest product offering, hand sanitizer (sourced elsewhere)—that makes her an essential business, but just because she has a product everybody needs doesn’t mean this time isn’t challenging for her as a small business owner.

    Paige invites you to browse the Breezy Quarters website and find something to soothe, delight, or celebrate you and those dear to you—and if you have questions, you can email her.


    Q: How are you handling sales at the moment—curbside pickup, delivery, or mostly through your website?

    We are mostly doing curbside pickup—I’ve created a soap drive through in our parking lot, and people can pull up between two flower pots and a sign that Commercial Printing made for us— and we will come out and bring their order to them, or assist them with whatever they need. I do still have people who have come in to browse. I try to serve people however they feel best served. We have taken orders through comments on FB, Messages, emails, phone calls, our POS, or website.

    The storefront was open 40 hours a week, but we have cut back to 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Monday–Saturday, which is 24 hours a week.

    Q: How do your web sales compare to what they were pre-pandemic?

    Most of our data has shifted from the in-store POS to the website. South Carolina is a little bit behind the national curve of the pandemic—3 weeks to a month. The effects have been delayed, so our numbers may not reflect the same as national— or our more populated South Carolina communities.

    I’ll compare January and March:

    • In store we had 195 transactions vs. 177 transactions
    • Online we had 20 transactions vs. 52 transactions

    In April so far [as of April 12], we’ve had 93 online and 60 in store, largely thanks to working hard to source hand sanitizer, even though soap will always be better. I have let go of my personal hang-ups about not liking hand sanitizer to serve my customers.

     Q: Are your non-soap items still selling well, or are people mainly buying soap?

    Everything is getting equal love for the most part. Sales of our foaming hand soap have been good, and hand sanitizer sells as fast as we can get it, but people are buying lots of lotion to take care of their skin. Moms are getting bath bombs so they can have a bit of an escape. I really love getting to be a part of everyone’s self-care!

    Q: What about staffing? Do you have employees other than yourself? Are you able to handle production, sales, and shipping on your own?

    I do have one full time employee, and sadly that is the only way that we were able to cut back. I considered cutting off our internet, but then realized that wasn’t really logical. In the beginning of all of this there was a little bit of an internal struggle for me. Do we fight, or flight, do we just shut everything down and go home? Governor McMaster’s press conferences were beneficial in guiding my business decisions. I appreciate his gradual approach to all of this, and the information from all of our state leaders.

    Q: How has the production side been impacted, if at all?

    Since I furloughed my employee, I have been able to do very little production, but that will have to change this week. I’m going to have to put some time in in the kitchen, and I’m going to have to order some packaging—and that has been hard to come by.

    Q: I know you have a close-knit small business community in Abbeville—what kinds of things are you seeing other businesses deal with there?

    Let me brag about my city a little bit. From the start of all of this, Mike Clary, our city economic development director, has been keeping us informed about all of the government programs, answering questions, and connecting us with help. Abbeville First Bank deferred loan payments on mortgages. Commercial Printing made anyone who wanted one a yard sign—for free—that says OPEN for curbside service—and space for us to put our phone number.

    As far as business innovation in Abbeville, Divine your Space has been making DIY kits so that people can make their own terrariums with succulents. Breezy Quarters has a DIY candle kit that has gone well. Trends on Trinity has been posting Easter basket fillers and providing curbside service since clothing stores were mandated closed. Urban 2 Country has delicious gourmet foods, and they have been doing a great job advertising on Facebook—they were able to source hand sanitizer as well from a company they normally carry in their store.

    We have lots of curbside service going on with our restaurants. Most have modified orders somewhat.

    Q: What advice do you have for small business owners who are closed or impacted by the pandemic?

    Small businesses are special, they involve so many different families, so they are all so unique. Do what you are able to do, take the help that has been offered from the government and your lending institutions. Take this time, if you are unable to sell, to get that website going, rewrite your marketing plan. Get that business plan done. Finish that application to that certification, grant, or whatever you have always wanted to do. Continue to connect with your customers— no matter what. Keep your email lists and your social media active. Be a person, not just a brand or business, and reach your customers wherever they need you. We are going to get through this. Together.