While grocery stores struggle to keep up with demand and restaurants try to stay afloat, a different challenge faces those small businesses considered non-essential—they are limited to virtual interactions online, by email or by telephone.
One small-business owner in Baytown is trying to keep his business alive with a combination of virtual efforts and even, this weekend, a new take on the old-school home shopping TV show.
Sterling Wadzinski, owner of Alter Ego Comics and Games at 2348 N. Alexander Drive, will revisit the familiar format with a three-night Facebook Live Showcase 7-9 p.m. tonight, Saturday and Sunday.
“We are definitely going to be doing a shopping-channel type thing where we have these items that are going for this much,” he said. While he displays batches of items for a few minutes at a time, he and one of his employees, Logan Peloqun, will keep the conversation going and respond to questions or comments from people who join the live chat.
“Each night is a different theme,” Wadzinski said. “The first one’s comics, the second one’s games and the third one’s toys. We’ll be showcasing some of the stuff that we have to offer and people can join the live chat and just message us and we can take care of checking them out.”
Wadzinski is in the store alone these days, with the business closed to customers and his handful of staff—still getting paid—work at home on various projects. One takes care of online orders, another is doing the research and preparation for upcoming live online tournaments, another is helping to create on online store (not part of the original business model) and another
keeping up with developments in government assistance to keep small businesses alive.
Wadzinski answers the phone and prepares orders for shipment and generally keeps the store functioning for the day when it can re-open.
Since the retail space he leases once housed a restaurant, it came equipped with a drive-through window, which had been boarded over but not removed. It has been restored for use for touch-free pickup of merchandise.
While there are a number of stores that sell comics and games, Wadzinski has emphasized bringing people into the gaming community, so his business model has been based more on face-to-face interaction rather than simply moving merchandise, with frequent live tournaments and events—definitely no longer possible with social distancing rules in effect.
“We’re going to start doing live tournaments on our Discord server,” he said. Discord is a mass messaging app built for online gaming.
“We normally have 30 or 40 people coming in and doing events and other things like that, but I’ve been seeing other shops doing it, and we wanted to do it right.”
“Essentially people just need a webcam and join our Discord server and they can hop on. We’ll have tournament fees and everything so we’ll be making revenue.” Tournament winners will get prizes in store credit.
“We’re definitely going to survive it. It’s just rough right now,” he said.
You can find the business at www.alteregocomicsandgames.com or by searching “Alter Ego Comics and Games” on Facebook.