When Neeti and Vinay Mehrotra, owners of former The UPS Store, decided to close after 16 years, they had no idea what they would do next.
They never expected they’d be back in the same business, printing, copying, packaging and shipping from their home.
Neeti said they ended up with some of the smaller pieces of equipment stored in various locations in the house, although most of the supplies had been sold to other UPS outlets.
They’d closed about three months into the pandemic, which had created a downturn for the Mehrotras, but it was a significant increase in their rents and common area charges, as well as the need to replace an expensive commercial air conditioner, that sealed their fate.
“This is the kind of business that relies on many small things that add up,” said Neeti. “There was definitely a drop because of COVID, but at least we were open.” However, a good part of the UPS income was from other local businesses, she said, including menu-printing for restaurants, which had closed.
“And then everything was gone all at once, and we just couldn’t keep going,” she said.
But the Mehrotras were well-liked in town, and their business of copying, printing and shipping was well-used. When it closed, Neeti said she missed her regular customers, and they told her they missed her, and the services they provided, for which they were having to travel to Niagara Falls or St. Catharines.
She would receive calls from people she knew from the store, customers who had become friends, who would explain what they needed and ask for advice about where to go to get the work done. “I realized I could help them. They don’t have to go anywhere else. A lot of our customers had depended on us for so long,” she says. “They’d say, ‘you know what we want, you know how to take care of us.’ They don’t want to start all over again.”
Using her garage, basement and an office in the house, she can do copying and printing, and packaging as well, as long as the product isn’t too large.
She can also still ship through UPS, she says.
“We’re not crazy busy, but we have enough work to keep us going. It’s good enough for now.”
The customers who are reaching out to her “are ones who we have had a closer relationship with. They email us — they don’t have to come to the door. It’s not like a retail location where people are always dropping in.”
Neeti says she hasn’t missed the store but she has missed contact with people. “People would come to talk more than to do business,” she says.
“I’ve missed that, missed seeing people all the time. When I go out, people keep telling me they miss me. I tell them I can still help them, and they’re so grateful. That’s what’s best about a small town, everyone helping each other.”
Neeti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.