Not touching your face is a good way to avoid contracting COVID-19.
But the public-health guideline is bad for businesses such as Skoah Facial Shop, which needs to touch faces in order to be viable.
Owner Lauri Stufflebeme said the social distancing restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating to her Oak Forest facial spa, which opened less than a year ago and had been building momentum in terms of its customer base. Skoah has been closed for more than a month as Houston and Harris County remain under a stay-at-home, work safe order, which allows only essential businesses to operate and requires all citizens who are not part of the same household to maintain at least 6 feet of separation from each other.
“It’s just been awful,” Stufflebeme said.
Fortunately for Skoah and several other businesses in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest areas, their landlord has come up with a creative way to drum up business – even for its tenants that are temporarily closed. Revive Development, a commercial real estate firm based in the area, unveiled a community-wide, interactive game called “Revive Bingo” last week.
Twenty-four of the 26 tenants in Revive’s portfolio represent squares on a bingo card, which includes a free space in the middle and can otherwise be filled by making a purchase or booking a future service with the business. The first 10 people to complete a five-square row will win a $250 prize package that includes gift certificates, products and services at the businesses, while the first person to patronize all 24 businesses will receive a prize package worth more than $1,000.
Fourteen of the Revive tenants are restaurants, which are allowed to operate with drive-through, carryout or delivery services. Eight of the businesses – two boutiques, two fitness centers, two hair salons, Skoah and a surf shop called Surfhouse – have been closed since at least March 24.
“We have focused 100 percent on helping our tenants,” said Monica Danna, Revive’s director of leasing and marketing. “Every single one of our 26 tenants are affected by it.”
Danna said service-based businesses such as Skoah, Brush & Bobby salon and Re/forme lagree fitness have been most significantly impacted by the pandemic. Some of the restaurants, meanwhile, have fared a little better since they’ve been able to remain open.
One example, Danna said, is Mico’s Hot Chicken in the Heights. The business was a popular food truck in the process of transitioning to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, so it already had been successful with a to-go model.
BB’s Tex-Orleans co-owner Maricela Bassler, who has a White Oak Drive location in the Heights and is a Revive tenant at 1737 W. 34th St., Ste. 500, said their sales have declined by only about 10-15 percent. BB’s specializes in crawfish and Hurricane cocktails and has promoted takeout specials for families, which have resonated with customers, according to Bassler.
Even though the business is doing fairly well, BB’s remains appreciative of Revive’s initiative. Danna, the cousin of Revive founder Bryan Danna, said the company’s eight-person staff came up with the idea while brainstorming about how they could help their tenants.
“We have 10 locations,” Bassler said. “I can tell you right now that not all landlords are supporting their tenants like Monica and Bryan are.”
Monica Danna said there were three bingo winners during the first week of the promotion, which is set to last through May. She said it made sense to group the businesses together, since they all are located within a few miles of each other.
And while trying to spark an uptick in immediate sales for their tenants, which in turn will help them pay rent to Revive, the bingo game also figures to create future business for those companies since their services are part of the prize packages.
“It’s really kind of a win-win for our tenants,” Danna said.
As of Tuesday, Stufflebeme said Skoah had yet to make a bingo-related sale. Even though its shop is closed, Skoah is doing free virtual consultations and selling its proprietary skin-care products.
Stufflebeme said her franchise benefits more by customers buying Skoah products directly from her instead of online, and she’s personally delivering what she sells. Her estheticians who are conducting the virtual consultations can receive commission from products they sell as well as gratuity.
Every little bit helps until Skoah can go back to providing facials at its spa on 34th Street. The same goes for bingo-inspired purchases.
“I’m waiting for folks to need that square,” Stufflebeme said. “I’m ready to serve them when they do.”