Carolann’s is struggling, but owners remain hopeful that the popular shop might soon reopen

May 13, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer

When store manager Kellie Dernier and her daughter, Jennifer Mazgelis, purchased Carolann's in downtown Hingham nearly three years ago following the passing of longtime owner Marty Baron, they held a celebratory "Staying in business!" sale.

They happily continued the shop's then-32-year tradition of offering fine customer service and fashionable clothing and accessories, with plans to continue with the popular business for years to come.

Then along came COVID-19 and changed all that. Carolann's has had its struggles in the past few years, "with everyone’s buying habits changing and more people relying on the Internet to buy products, but we were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel before the shutdown of non-essential businesses occurred," Dernier said.

She and her daughter recently set up a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 "to save our beloved store." As of May 12, $3,449 had been donated. "When we purchased the store in 2017,  never in my wildest dreams would I think I would be setting up a GoFundMe campaign," Dernier said.

But times are tough, and the motive a good one during this unprecedented crisis. "Rather than focus on the fears and doubts that are creeping upon us, the owners (myself and my beautiful Mum) are focusing on how we can support our staff and community most effectively, immediately," Mazgelis posted on the "Carolann's Cares" GoFundMe page.

The goal of this exceptional mother-daughter team is to provide goods that are most needed at this time, in a comfortable, welcoming, small-town setting in contrast to high-traffic, big box stores, while respecting social distancing guidelines.

The closing of all non-essential businesses in early March came at a bad time for Carolann's, while in the midst selling Communion attire and heading into spring vacation and Easter season. "We stopped most of our spring shipments from coming to the store, not knowing when this would end," Dernier said.

Located at 31-35 Main St., Carolann's is not the only Hingham Square business that's struggling since non-essential businesses were forced to close per order of Gov. Charlie Baker. "We are not alone in this uncertainty, and we are all trying to figure how we will get through it," Dernier said. "Sadly we have had one casualty (Chel Bella) thus far in this sad time." Chel Bella recently announced plans to close its doors June 1.

Despite the challenges, Dernier and Mazgelis are maintaining a positive attitude. "We are planning to restock the toy, gift, and Hingham-themed items that our customers love," Dernier said. "We are looking forward to seeing all of our customers, but we're not sure where we will fall in the phased part of the reopening of the economy. Not being in control of one's destiny is very unnerving."

The funds raised will be used as cash-flow capital to buy the most essential items as quickly as possible -- footwear and apparel for summer, protective wear for children, outdoor and indoor activities and games, and other customer favorites.

Most COVID-19 aid packages have strict limits on how those funds may be spent, and Dernier and Mazgelis are using that money "to insulate our employees and for essential services for the store, with all the cash flow capital used to pay the required bills in order to remain a business entity in the state of Massachusetts," they explain on their GoFundMe page. "With your help and #smallbusinessrelief, we are going to (gosh darn-it) do it again. We will remember and pay back to the community in kind. Big love, humble hearts, and gratitude to the moon and back. -- Jenn & Kellie."

In an earlier interview Dernier said, "We always listen to our customers. You've got to be willing to change with the times." And that's exactly what this mother-daughter team is prepared to do, even during a crisis.

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