‘We can’t survive without you’: Central Virginia tech store owner says small businesses need community support

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Many local shops were looking forward to Small Business Saturday and bringing customers into stores for special deals after a year of uncertainty.

For some local businesses, they got what they expected: few people walking in the door.

Experimax in Carytown was hit with a devastating one-two punch in May after pandemic lockdowns preluded being looted during riots in Richmond.

Leonard Blue owns the tech shop on 1307 W. Main St. and says it has been a hard year for many reasons.

“We are still in a recovery process,” Blue said. “We were able to stay in business by the grace of our support through our GoFundMe in the community to help pay off a lot of computers that were lost for customers who were patronizing us at the time.”

Experimax being looted during a riot in May

Shanté Knight, a customer in the store on Small Business Saturday, was affected by the looting at Experimax.

“My computer was actually here for a repair when Leonard’s store was vandalized, and my computer was taken,” Knight said. “I was devastated, and he was one of the first people to give me a call. I was more concerned about him and his shop because of the good he does for the community.”

Knight said Blue tries to help his customers and learn about their needs: one example of consumer connection holding importance for small businesses.

“The unbelievable reliability,” Knight said, “I feel more connected to the community by providing support for our small business owners.”

Blue says learning about his customer’s needs is the reason he’s become a go-to spot for many in the city.

“We just provide that personal touch that a lot of those box stores can’t do,” Blue said. “We are definitely here for the community, and we are part of your community as well.”

Laptops sit on the shelf in Experimax on Main Street

For Blue, this year’s Small Business Saturday hasn’t been as busy as he would like. He wants to remind people to think local this year as they decide on their holiday spending.

“We’re part of the community. We are the community. We are what’s gonna bring back and make the community even stronger,” Blue said. “We can’t survive without you, so definitely come out and show some type of support, and we will definitely be here for you as long as possible.”

Leonard said his store will have sales throughout the weekend, so come by and ask for him. Customers get 10-15% off repairs and purchases.

“If anyone has a phone issue, iPad issue or a computer issue, they can come see us this weekend up to Monday,” Blue said.

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