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Pandemic Portrait Project: The Tenacity and Resilience of Local Entrepreneurs in Asheville, NC

WNC Native & Award Winning, Professional Wedding & Family Portrait Photographer, based in Asheville, NC documents the living history of the families living in her community as well as the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in this popular tourism destination, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Almost a year ago to the day, I sat down beside her at Weaver Park. We chatted about our children, her oldest being the same age as my son, Noah. We chatted about mom stuff, toddler stuff, Blippi… we eventually discovered that we were both native to the area, which is very exciting to run into another native just by chance, these days! LOL 😉 We talked about work & discovered that we were both entrepreneurs… she told me she owned a little boutique downtown (that I love) and that her husband owned TOPS Shoes downtown, which has been around for as long as I can remember & is a beloved downtown Asheville landmark, in my opinion. 🙂 Almost a year later, the newborn she held in her arms that day at the park, is a year old, she’s opened another gorgeous boutique just up the block from the original & COVID-19 has devastated this little tourist town that’s been on every top ten list of places to visit for the last several years….

A couple weeks ago, I had a dream one night and woke up the next morning on a mission, determined to help other small business owners in my community, in whatever way that I could…. I was going to use my skillset to shine a light on them, telling anyone who would listen about them, about their experience, about their struggle, about their resilience, about their pivot, about their tenacity, generosity to their community and about how we as a community can support them, in order to keep them here.

Lauren Carr is as inspiring as she is sweet (and stylish) 😉 . She owns Boutique LP and Edge Boutique in downtown Asheville, located on N. Lexington Ave next to TOPS and Edge is located on the corner of Lexington and College! Lauren is a native of WNC, she’s a mother of two small children and she is one of the kindest, most humble humans I’ve encountered in a long while… She’s so gentle and warm and easy to be around that my chance encounter with her almost exactly a year ago stuck with me… so much so that I reached out to her with an email that started a little something like: “I don’t know if you remember me but we sat next to each other at weaver park once….” and she sure enough did! 😉 I am so thrilled that she and her husband, Alex wanted to participate in my little project! (more on Alex later!) 🙂

As I stood there talking to Lauren & Alex on the corner of College and Lexington last week, they shared a few things about their experiences as small, retail businesses, located in downtown (that rely pretty heavily on those tourist dollars) that I hadn’t previously considered:

  1. Neither Edge nor Boutique LP were previously set up for online sales.
  2. Both shops are completely stocked with Spring / Summer inventory, that’s now just sitting there with a huge investment tied up in said inventory…
  3. Lauren is now faced with the challenge of figuring out how to pivot to meet this crisis, to survive it, and to move that inventory (this seasons trends might not sell next season etc)…

Here are a few words from Lauren about her experience during this COVID19 crisis:

My Mother and I have been business partners for the last 12 years.  We opened our first clothing boutique in South Asheville in 2008.  We held on by a thread, like most, during the recession but were determined to keep fighting.  We moved downtown after our lease was up, changed our name and opened what is now, Boutique LP.  Our sister store, EDGE boutique followed seven years later.  We grew from just the two of us to a team of seven.  Our mission was simple; offer a curated mix of contemporary clothing brands through a very personal, hands on customer service approach.  It took time, the right locations, perseverance and so much more to get to March 15th, 2020.  Now everything has changed.  Our doors are closed.  Our employees are laid off.  Our Boutique were not previously setup for online sales as it was never our intention to sell online.  We wanted to sell an experience just as much as the product.  Utilizing our social media platforms to the best of our ability has been our only option right now. 

Please follow Boutique LP & EDGE Boutique on Instagram & Facebook! (links below) We’re going to start posting daily with the pretty amazing spring/summer clothing , handbags, jewelry etc that we have in stock!! You can message us or email us and we’ll get it ready for Curbside Pickup, FREE Local Delivery or FREE Standard Shipping!!!

Our core mission will always remain the same.  It will be up to us to redefine what “personal” and “hands on” looks like within our company.  We’ll navigate through this time as we did through the recession. Over the last 12 years, as a company, we’ve supported hundreds of local organizations through donations and participation and we’ll now lean on our community and loyal customers for extra support as we navigate these challenging and uncertain times!  All in hopes that we can thrive and begin to give back to our community once again! XO – Lauren

Follow EDGE Boutique on Instagram: EDGE Boutique Instagram

Follow EDGE Boutique on Facebook: EDGE Boutique Facebook

Follow Boutique LP on Instagram: Boutique LP Instagram

Follow Boutique LP on Facebook: Boutique LP Facebook

Visit Boutique LP’s Website here: Boutique LP

If you or someone you know operates a locally owned, small business in Asheville, please reach out, I would love to feature your company for this project, please get in touch. It’s FREE to you. I just want to help! 😉

xo – Brittany

Check out Saturday’s Pandemic Portrait Project photos in West Asheville:

Check out the BEST OF THE PANDEMIC PORTRAIT PROJECT HERE: SHOW ME!

About the Pandemic Portrait Project:

The Pandemic Porch Portrait Project began with friends & neighbors and rapidly expanded to include photojournalistic portraits of families within the Asheville community, paying special tribute to the HEROS (including but certainly not limited to: nurses, doctors, surgeons, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, social workers, lab techs, pharmacists, engineers, etc) and expanded again to feature locally owned, small business owners photographed in front of their shops downtown as well as local non-profits providing the vital resources that our community needs during this crisis.

Why?

I wanted to do what (I) can, using my unique skillset to help my community during this crisis. As a professional photographer, I believe that it is my responsibility to document this moment in history.

I am offering this opportunity to families, small businesses and non-profits within my community, to help them to document this unprecedented moment in our country’s living history. The idea for the project is to capture your family (or business/organization) as you really are, right now, in this moment. No special hair, makeup or wardrobe required & nothing is perfectly lit or posed… this is meant to be just you: real, honest, and human.

Purpose:

The purpose of the project is to document your struggles, your resilience, your tenacity, your hope and the JOY that you create despite this crisis. Some families have opted to do a “normal” portrait and my favorites have been those families who have chosen to make light of or to make the very best of an incredibly bad situation by dressing up in costume, incorporating funny props, bubbles or signs of encouragement for their neighbors, etc!

Safety:

I actually shoot these portraits with a telephoto lens (70-200mm) so that I can shoot comfortably from a 50-75ft ft distance away from my subjects (I am usually at the curb, out in the yard or at the end of the driveway. I am no where near my subjects and certainly not within any distance where there could be any potential risk of virus transmission.

Cost:

The cost for a Pandemic Porch Portrait is $40

$10 of every session booked will go directly to MANNA FOOD BANK on behalf of the Pandemic Porch Portrait Project Families. (as of 4.18.2020)

Payment:

You can Pay Pal or Venmo me.

Venmo me: @ Brittany-Sisk OR Pay Pal me: brittanyksisk@gmail.com

This modest fee quite literally keeps gas in my car to carry on with the project, keeps the lights on, keeps a roof over our heads and keeps food on our table during this very scary and uncertain time to be an artist, a small business owner, single mother & my son’s sole provider.

From the very depths of my Soul, Thank you for your Support.

Scheduling:

You can schedule your very own Pandemic Portrait Project experience for your family, business or non-profit by clicking the link below to sign up for an available space on my calendar!

Please be aware that as I begin to look at the calendar (usually a couple days ahead of time), I will likely send an updated confirmation with your scheduled shoot time — which may change slightly as I organize a travel route that is efficient and limits backtracking!)

Wednesdays: East AVL – Haw Creek, Oakley, Sweeten Creek area, Kenilworth, N. Hendersonville Rd (near’ish downtown) neighborhoods.
Thursdays: Asheville City (proper) – Downtown, Biltmore Village, Five Points, Montford, Norwood, Grove Park/Sunset + points in between
Fridays: N. Asheville (UNCA area, Beaver Lake area, Woodfin)
Saturdays: West Asheville- RAD, Haywood + points in between.

What about Leicester, Arden, Fairview, Fletcher, Candler, Canton, Waynesville, Weaverville, Black Mountain?

If you live in a neighboring community, I WILL travel there, however, you will need to organize a group of 5+ neighbors and friends in your area to participate on the same day (during the same 2hr time block) so that I can give your community an entire day’s shooting on (Mondays or Tuesdays) Please reach out to organize pandemic portraits for your community!

Contact:

If you need to speak to me ahead of your session, please give me a call OR shoot me a text (828.779.8401)

The Process: I usually text when I’m en route to your location with an ETA, I’ll beep the horn when I arrive, you’ll come outside & I’ll shoot the portraits. After the shoot, I’ll edit the files and upload them into an online gallery for you to download your files or order prints, etc. I will send a link to your email with a download PIN for access to download your files! ❤

Follow us on the Socials!?

Facebook: @AshevillePortraitCompany
Instagram: @AshevilleWeddingPhoto

Photographer: Brittany Sisk
Native of WNC, Professional Wedding & Family Portrait Photographer located in downtown Asheville for the last eleven years.
Owner/Lead Photographer at Asheville Portrait Company – which is the umbrella company for:

www.AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com www.AshevilleWeddingPhoto.com

Asheville Wedding Photography

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Serving Asheville North Carolina& Beyond