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Small businesses still recovering this holiday season from economic impact of pandemic

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners, like Mae Mae Stiles, are counting on the holidays to help boost sales.

AUSTIN, Texas — Mae Mae Stiles began making jewelry decades ago. What started as a hobby became her profession.

"My mom had taught me how to make jewelry when we first moved to America when I was 14 years old," said Stiles. "That's back in 1977. We used to sell the little things we made at flea markets."

She eventually realized she could make it into something much bigger.

"I made like maybe 10 necklaces, and I brought it to a local store ... in my neighborhood," added Stiles. "I just walked in, and I said, 'Oh, you know, I made these. Are you interested in maybe carrying these in your store?' So the lady looked at it, and she bought six pieces out of the 10."

That was just the start. Making jewelry later became her full-time job. For years, she built her business. It was going well, all until the pandemic hit. 

"When the store shut down, there was no revenue," added Stiles. "So, I just didn't have any income."

Two years into the pandemic and she's slowly recovering.

Today, up until the end of December, her work will be featured at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, along with 100 other artists.

"It's been a challenging time for artists," said Dana Younger, partner at Blue Genie Art Bazaar. "We feel great about being able to offer them this opportunity again to show their creative and unique items to people and give people a chance to support them."

It was a tough year for many. Stiles is happy she didn't have to shut down her business.

"It didn't just die completely," said Stiles. "It's coming back up."

She stays hopeful that as the holidays come near, her business will continue to grow.

The Blue Genie Art Bazaar is open daily from Nov. 19 to Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is located at 6100 Airport Blvd. Shoppers can also shop online.


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