How Small Businesses are Helping Parents Keep Their Kids Busy

While all non-essential retail stores are physically closed to the public, there are many shops that continue to offer goods to purchase – virtually. As parents find themselves overwhelmed, juggling their careers with housework and homeschooling, “giftologists” have solutions to keep kids busy without overwhelming the household. The Courier spoke with some small business owners who are keeping their shops alive while giving back to the community. 

“I’m really enjoying finding productive and creative things for kids to do,” Jill Lefferman, owner of GIFTED told the Courier. “I have kids myself and it’s hard to find things that are not just video games and non-screen activities to keep them busy.” Although her retail space on South Beverly Drive is closed, her shop is still open. “I have no set hours. The idea is that if you need it, I’ll help you.” Lefferman offers a shopping experience over FaceTime, text, or over the phone, with same day curbside pick-up and delivery requiring no human-to-human contact. “When I saw what was happening, I stocked up on puzzles, crafts and games,” Lefferman said. 

On a busy day, Lefferman will assist as many as eight customers and fill their orders. “My biggest seller is puzzles. I think the reason they are so popular right now is because they take a long time to do and it keeps people engaged. But also, it’s an equalizer and people of all ages can do it together,” she noted. 

When the City mandated all non-essential business closures, Lefferman put a sign up on her store window with her contact information for those interested in virtual shopping. With residents walking more to get outdoors, the increase in foot traffic in front of her store has led to an uptick in new customers. “With Mother’s Day coming up, I’m going to be really focused on wellness gifts. I want to offer online classes via Zoom for kids wanting to learn how to make beautiful cards that they can make for mom,” Lefferman said. 

GIFTED is not the only shop pivoting to meet the moment. The owner of the gift shop Tweak, Tara Riceberg, told the Courier, “Although my doors are closed, my shop is still open. I can do text messaging or FaceTime and I’ll walk around the store with them while video chatting. One of the things I’ve loved is that when I’m Facetiming with somebody, it truly feels like the same kind of human connection is still there. It really is just the two of us on the phone in a very present way,” said Riceberg, who began the virtual offerings on April 1. Riceberg also offers Facetime shopping at her other store, Tesoro on Canon Drive, which carries home décor items. Riceberg’s late mother first opened Tesoro on Canon 17 years ago. 

Among her most popular items for kids are puzzles, logic games, craft kits and pens that puff up when heat is added, transforming any card from two dimensional to 3D. “Also, scenario games have been great,” Riceburg added. “The kids have to figure out how to put the pieces together to solve each scenario in the game.” Many Teak customers are looking more for experiences than objects. 

Recently, a group of moms in the community asked Riceberg for help putting together a care package going to a family battling COVID-19. “The parents were severely sick with the virus, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh. How do you even take care of two kids in elementary school when you can barely function yourself?'” So, she set about to fill an order finding gifts, games, and self-sufficient activities that do not require adult supervision for the children to keep busy with. 

To Riceberg, gift giving isn’t simply about exchanging goods for money. It’s an art, a joy for both the giver and receiver, representative of sincere appreciation for another person. 

“Just because kids’ birthday parties aren’t happening, don’t forget the birthday gifts. How do you tell an eight-year-old that they get nothing for their birthday? And Amazon isn’t shipping non-essentials so there’s no guarantee you’re going to get anything if you buy from Amazon. But I’m local and I could have something at that house the same day,” she said. 

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