Businesses across the country—especially independent retail shops—have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The MGH General Store and Flower Shop—which opened in 1942—is one such operation that has felt a substantial impact in recent months. Coupled with cancellations of in-person gatherings and a new focus on virtual meetings, gone are the days of floral arrangement purchases for fundraisers, chapel services, retirement parties and museum events, and with fewer passersby, there has been a marked decrease in purchases of thoughtful and comforting cards and gifts for patients.
“While the Gift Shop on the hospital’s main campus remained open—ready to provide necessities including scrubs, shoes and snacks—throughout the COVID surge and response efforts last spring, business dramatically decreased after the introduction of a restricted visitor policy and remote work guidelines for many employees,” says JoAnne Lynch, administrative director for the General Store. “We’ve seen a huge drop in sales—both in the store and in our floral operations.”
That financial impact, however, reaches far beyond these regular store operations, says Pamela Oswald-Louis, vice chair of the Mass General LVC, the hospital’s 151-year-old volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing the patient experience. “All shop proceeds support the store’s staff and go directly back into the hospital to fund patient programs, services and activities,” Oswald-Louis says. “In the past, we have been able to support several different initiatives, including educational programs, personalized comfort baskets for pediatric families who have experienced a death, computers for much-needed interpreter services options and transportation costs and scholarships for area youth to attend summer camp.”
This year, Oswald-Louis says, the fate of the grant program is uncertain.
“We are so thankful to the dedicated staff at the shops who are working hard to make sure the stores are open to the hospital community and that they are offering the necessary—and fun!—supplies and gifts that people want and need in this ‘new normal,’” she says. “We hope that business will continue to increase and we will once again be able to fund these important patient-focused programs.”
As part of its new outreach efforts, the shops now offer an online ordering system and can work with departments or individuals to create themed baskets or gift bundles. Floral delivery is available at the hospital and within the Boston area.
“Ether Day is approaching and it’s always a nice time for supervisors to celebrate their employees’ years of service,” Oswald-Louis says. “The shops can do the shopping for you—putting together a congratulatory basket of goodies, or a nice arrangement of flowers. They also can tackle a wide array of other themes—are you planning a campfire event? Preparing for the holidays? Or, want to treat yourself to a spa day at home? The shops can help you add to the fun and festivities.”