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Little Rock retail business owners learning to navigate the new normal

Bella Vita Jewelry and M2 Gallery in Little Rock are changing it up to keep selling, while creating products for customers to do at home.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On Saturday, we learned unemployment claims are up to 66,000 in Arkansas. 

While that number continues to get higher, local retail business owners are working tirelessly to navigate their shops around it all and stay afloat. 

Brandy McNair, owner of Bella Vita Jewelry, said they need the community's support. 

"We're all just kind of rolling with it and doing our best to innovate," she said. 

Along for the ride despite the challenges, that's what McNair said she has to do. 

"I still have my employees. We've just kind of cut back on hours until we figure out if we want to pursue a loan or what the future holds," she said. 

The handmade jewelry shop that has been selling in Little Rock for the past 12 years, shut its doors on March 16, according to McNair.

"It just made the most sense for me to do it. It's not what I wanted to do, but none of this is what anyone wants to do," she said. 

Since then, McNair said it's been curbside pickup, deliveries, and shipped orders. 

"It's just really amazing that people are still supporting locally during this crazy time," she said. 

Looking to give her customers an outlet, McNair started selling jewelry kits, posting free downloadable color sheets, and creating online video tutorials. 

"It's just something to occupy your time and get creative too," she said. 

Less than a mile down the road at M2 Gallery in the SoMa district, owner Mac Murphy is challenging his customers to step outside the box. 

"It gives that sense of normalcy. You don't have to be thinking about anything else," he said. 

Murphy said projects like having your kids make a piece of art and framing it up on the wall or digging out those old family heirlooms that can turn into masterpieces. 

"A lot of times, these things are stuck away in boxes or sealed in cedar chests or something, but they'll make great pieces of art on the wall too," he said. 

Murphy said the gallery had just celebrated its 13 year anniversary the week before everything changed. 

Him and his wife knew they had to shut their doors once their children's schools closed down. 

"It's been kind of difficult because, obviously, we have to all the sudden become teachers, as well, which we found we're not very good at," he said. 

Juggling school work and a business, Murphy said they're getting by each day through porch pickups, photo shopping art pieces on customers' walls, and encouraging people to continue to support the 20 artists they represent. 

"They're hit really hard by this because they have second jobs and things like that they've lost and art is not at the top of people's minds right now," he said. 

Both Bella Vita and M2 Gallery's owners are pleading for Arkansans to keep shopping locally. 

"We need the support of the community if you want us to be here when this is all over," McNair said. 

To see everything Bella Vita and M2 Gallery have to offer, head to their Facebook pages. 

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