Introvert’s View on Self-Isolating

At first, I was looking forward to the thought of self-isolating. It was a chance to get a much-needed break from the world. Before, there were days that I did not get home until 8 o’clock in the evening, sometimes even later. I never had a day to relax and take a breather because I was always working on something. Whether it be dance, school, helping my mom out in the candy shop or just hanging out with friends, there was always something. But I’ve learned that too much of something, no matter how much I love doing it, can be a bad thing.

When the first case showed up in Aroostook County, I almost celebrated. It was an excuse to stay home and do, well, nothing. I convinced my mom to buy the new Animal Crossing game, New Horizons, and we have been playing it almost non-stop ever since. We’re on the fourth season of “Ancient Aliens” and toward the end of our second run through of “The Big Bang Theory.” Life was almost perfect. Except for the minor fact that I still have to do discussion posts. But that is something I am going to have to do no matter what.

I started to worry about how long this would last. The candy shop my mom worked so hard on was at a standstill. I had plans to go to Boston in August with a group of friends. I wouldn’t be able to watch my best friends graduate. Nor would we be able to go to their last spring formal together. Soon the days blended together, and I was missing my friends and family. I ended up getting a case of cabin fever from staying home for so long.

“It’s an introvert’s paradise,” my mom said. “I could really get used to working from home. But there are certain aspects of being in the shop that I miss.”

Thankfully, my mom and I figured out a way to start a curbside pickup for the candy shop. We are both able to get out of the house a little more. Which, in the long run, might be beneficial for both of us.

But, until recently, I was not scared. It was all just a lot of worrying. When my dad came by to drop off groceries, it was an eye-opener for me as to how serious this situation was. Since my dad lives in Caribou, Maine, my mom thought he could bring us food because there was not a confirmed case up there yet. Before all this started, we were making plans to visit him for the weekend. We were taking turns traveling to visit since he moved to Caribou for a new position in his work. Until he dropped off the groceries, I had not seen him for weeks. I wasn’t able to even hug him goodbye when he left for fear of getting the virus.

After the initial panic of finding out there was a case in Aroostook County, my grandparents came by for a quick visit. We all kept our distance from one another, except for my grandfather. “I don’t care what they say, you’re my granddaughter,” he said as he pulled off his glove and gave my hand a squeeze. We all eventually realized that it was near impossible for any of us to have gotten the virus due to how little we’ve left our houses. I always say it’s better to be paranoid than dead. So, we all hugged goodbye, and my grandparents went on their way.

Even though my time at home is less than it was at the start, it’s still more than I’m used to. I still enjoy it, but it can be overwhelming. You never know how much you appreciate something until it’s gone. The hardest part about this is not being able to see my friends and family. What I miss the most is spending time with them. While I still talk to them, it’s not the same as seeing them in person. It is best if we all limit our contact with others as much as possible to help stop the spread of the virus. Even though it can be hard, it will be worth it.

Focusing less on the negative side of this situation and more on the positive side is my way of getting through it all. I hope to spend this time focusing on writing. That is something I’ve been trying to get back into but never had an opportunity until now. I imagine that my mom and I will start our third run through of “The Big Bang Theory” soon. And as always, I’ll be working on my town in Animal Crossing. The plans I made can always be changed for a different day and I will still have chances to dance with my best friends. It will just be a while before these things can happen, and that is OK. Like I said, it’s better to be paranoid than dead.

Bethany’s character in the game Animal Crossing New Horizons.

Inside a Grocery Store During COVID-19

We live in a world that keeps changing. Because of this, many of us are getting used to a new type of normal. Sheltering in place has kept us from friends and family, all for the good of our own health. Essential workers put themselves and those they live with in the face of danger daily. As I type this article from my rural community, the coronavirus has yet to hit us. The curve starts to flatten slowly but not nearly enough before this deadly virus hits the town of Millinocket, Maine.

In the seemingly ghost town of Millinocket, things everywhere have changed to accommodate the virus. For many the biggest visual change right now is in the Hannaford grocery store. If you have not been shopping for a while, you might be surprised to see stores and the precautions they take.

Photo of what a lot of stores around the world look like during these extraordinary times.

When going to the Millinocket Hannaford and other essential stores during this time, customers and employees alike should be aware of these changes. When first arriving at the store you should be courteous of the set limits put into place. Millinocket’s Hannaford allows only 45 customers in the store at a time to help control confined spaces. As you walk to the sliding glass doors you may think that you want a cart. Due to lack of cleaning supplies and the importance of surfaces needing to be clean, baskets are no longer available for use.

The grocery cart will be sprayed down with germ-killing chemicals by an employee and handed directly to a customer as needed. As you enter the store, be sure to be mindful of the six-foot rule even with the employees. You might even notice red arrows on the floor. These arrows are placed to help everyone stick to a six-foot rule. It was once a better time when we could enter a store and walk wherever we wanted to whichever aisle. But it is a new world and we all must do our part to help protect one another.

“The arrows are easy to forget about right now. I was hauling a U-boat down the wrong side of the store,” Kyle Corcoran, an employee at Hannaford since 2019, said.

Once done making your way around the store, you might notice the red tape in the shape of a square by each cash register. This is there to protect customers waiting in line and endorse the six-foot rule. Sneeze shields are put up at every register. Surfaces are being wiped down repeatedly and anything that may get touched is sanitized directly after.

This is a brand-new way of shopping. It may seem inconvenient, but customers and employees are being kept safe. So, as you place your face mask on with the intention to venture out to a store, please know that safety is a main priority. Stores are providing us with a new normal.

The Need to Support Local Businesses

In any small town, there are local businesses that rely on the community for support. In Houlton, Maine, things are no different. The downtown area of Houlton has a variety of activities that bring the people together for fun times. Many think local businesses are the heart of the town. In the summer, there are farmers’ markets and 4th of July celebrations that go on until midnight. Now there is something bringing many small towns to a standstill.

“Before the governor told all non-essential business to close, I started closing the shop at 2 p.m. because no one was coming due to the local schools and business closures,” Charlene Tabb, the owner of Betty Marie’s Sweet Shop, said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners have it rough. Non-essential businesses in Houlton are temporarily closing because of the virus. What used to be a booming community is now like a ghost town.

An empty Betty Marie’s Candy Shop during the closing of non-essential businesses.

“Many of the business owners I’ve spoken with are concerned about how long this mandatory shutdown will last. Business owners have rent and suppliers to pay along with payroll to meet,” Charlene said. Social distancing and lockdown may go on for months. She is not sure what the next steps for her business will be.

“It feels odd driving through downtown and seeing all the dark stores through the window. It almost feels like a ghost town,” Melanie Griffin, a local from the Houlton area, said. “I used to stop by a shop on my way home because that’s where people I knew would go. It was an opportunity to socialize and help out the local economy. Now that I can’t do that anymore, I’ve certainly become lonelier.”

Charlene hopes to continue with a new normal after the community starts up again. “We have several businesses in the downtown area that are less than a year old. Mine is one of them. I can only hope that all of us can come through this and thrive together,” she said. These local businesses succeed from the support of the community. After the pandemic ends will be a key time for Houlton.

“I am looking forward to a day in town with a chance to perhaps go from shop to shop and go to the movie theater with other people,” Melanie said. “I think people can support them by continuing to shop at the ones that are left. Go to the drive through and the store. Just remember to follow the social distancing guidelines.”

The people will be eager to continue to support the local businesses. This is something that is an important part of the community. There are those who hope that once it calms down, things will return to a new type of normal. Houlton will one day return to its former glory. Until then, Betty Marie’s Sweet Shop, along with other local businesses, will stay closed, waiting to open again.

 

The Bling and the Beautiful: Paparazzi Jewelry

     As Marilyn Monroe said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Now they can be for an affordable price. Paparazzi Jewelry is an accessories company that offers trendy costume jewelry at an affordable price: $5. Paparazzi has accessory pieces from earrings, rings and bracelets, to necklaces and hair pieces. There is a large variety of different styles to meet different customers’ preferences. The company even offers men’s jewelry. Paparazzi also has children’s products that are only a dollar a piece. 

      Angie Theriault started selling Paparazzi at the end of January. Angie was first a customer of Paparazzi Jewelry from a local friend. “I was buying about $100 worth of jewelry a week,” she said, laughing. Angie noted people at work would compliment her jewelry. “I loved it so much. It was always in the back of my head to join,” Angie said. She is currently recovering from her second knee surgery and growing her Paparazzi business in Fort Kent, Maine. “What I truly love is helping people and making them happy. That is a reason I joined the Paparazzi team. When I was buying Paparazzi from a consultant, it gave me so much joy. That is what I want everyone to feel,” Angie said. 

     To join Paparazzi, Angie bought a starter kit. The company offers three different starter kits, from a range of $100 to $500. The biggest difference within the packages is the amount of jewelry included. To purchase more jewelry, she then uses her consultant ID. Being a consultant, she purchases her pieces for $2.75 each plus tax. This gives Angie about $2 per sale for her profit. Currently her income is from commission of selling Paparazzi. She also earns free pieces of jewelry, known as “hostess rewards,” after purchasing 10 pieces. Angie uses her hostess rewards as a marketing technique to give away free jewelry to her customers. 

     Paparazzi releases new jewelry every weekday at 3 p.m. ET. About 10 new pieces are released a day that can range in any jewelry type. “The stuff sells out fast. Sometimes you get to the checkout and it’s not even available anymore,” Angie said. The company is adding new merchandise, but also products become discontinued to stay trendy. “I had a customer that her necklace broke. So I contacted another consultant, because the piece was no longer available. I bought it with my own money and then paid shipping. I lost money, but it meant a happy customer,” Angie said. 

     The public can buy Paparazzi Jewelry from the website for the same price of $5, plus a $5.95 shipping fee. Perks of buying from a consultant are being able to pick up directly from the consultant and supporting a local entrepreneur such as Angie. A consultant can ship to their customers as well at the consultant’s own cost, but some add a shipping cost. 

     Angie is primarily selling online through social media. Her most success comes from Facebook and Messenger. Angie is putting on an event every day of the week, sometimes even two a night. On Facebook, Angie posts pictures of the jewelry for customers to see and hosts Facebook live parties. Her Facebook page is public, so anyone can join, view or buy. She encourages word of mouth sharing through inviting others to her page or sharing the content. 

     To keep customers involved, Angie plays games and does drawings to win free jewelry with her rewards or own purchases. “At the start, it’s hard to give away free jewelry because the business is small. It’s hard to compete with other sellers because they give out a lot of free jewelry,” Angie said. 

     “She does a nice job. It seems like a lot of work to do but she makes it enjoyable and makes the customers feel they’re a part of it. She has a lot of different types of jewelry to make everyone happy. The variety is nice, because I can buy it for my mom, sister or girlfriend. My favorite part is the games because it’s so interactive,” Matthew Gagne said. 

     Selling on live allows Angie to focus on what her audience is interested in, displaying it and selling directly. Being a small business has allowed her to become more personal with her customers through her active engagement on live. Angie learns her customers very well, which helps her select her merchandise to know what will sell. Her best sellers are silver jewelry and long necklaces. 

     The process of creating Angie’s business has been a learning process. She is learning the best platforms to sell, hot merchandise and time to sell. “It’s a learning process of learning how to stay organized and the tips and tricks,” Angie said. She’s currently trying to increase her viewers in hopes of selling more jewelry. She is also making a website for her business. Angie’s merchandise is available on her Facebook public group: Gigi’s $5 Bling Paparazzi accessories.

Paparazzi consultant Angie Theriault, pictured in Paparazzi accessories.