Face to Face: Whitney Oliver leads Apricot Lane to new reality during shutdown

If the old adage is true that no crisis should go to waste, then Whitney Oliver followed it to the letter.

During the closure, the owner of Apricot Lane in Southgate Mall took advantage of the downtime to reinvent her business, virtually. It had lingered on the “to-do” list for a while.

“Getting online was always the plan,” said Oliver. “And COVID- 9 just kind of forced us to get going sooner than we originally planned. We started two new programs while we were in the stay-at- home order.”

While Apricot Lane has been around for about nine years, Oliver purchased the business last year. When the pandemic hit, she opted to close her store several days before Southgate Mall followed suit.

The store opened for private appointments last week and officially reopened this Monday for in-house service. Five of her seven employees have returned to work. The other two positions will be refilled, she said.

The closure afforded her an opportunity to explore new ways to reach customers, including a local website promoting her business and merchandise.

“It really did force us to find new ways of conducting business,” she said. “We’re going to continue to implement that as part as our new business plan moving forward.”

Missoula officials expressed optimism this week about the city’s chanced for economic recovery, and Oliver doesn’t disagree. But she believes it will take time to establish a new normal and adjust to the changes that have taken place over the past few months.

“We’re all figuring out how to follow CDC guidelines, the new health codes and find creative ways to interface with our customers while meeting them where they area,” she said. “It’s trying to find a way to adapt to the new environment we’re in while still being true to the brand.”