March was a month plagued with troubles for Upstairs Downstairs Antiques.
The first setback for the longstanding Charles Street business that helped launch the annual Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll came on March 10 when a fire hydrant at Pinckney Street and Cedar Lane Way burst during routine maintenance by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Two feet of water from the hydrant seeped through the walls and flooded the rear of the store, destroying much of its inventory in the process.
Laura Cousineau, proprietor, said while the business has insurance, the policy doesn’t cover the damages since the flood originated outside on the street. Her landlord also didn’t help cover her losses, and the last correspondence she had with BWSC was March 16, so she isn’t optimistic she’ll see any relief from them either.
Her employees, many of whom are seniors and at high risk for contracting COVID-19, worked at the store until March 15, although one staff member and returned to work for one day – Saturday, March 21.
Meanwhile, Cousineau returned from the Bahamas on March 23 only to learn she would have to close the store at noon the following day. She expected the business would reopen on April 7, but that didn’t come to pass, and the shop now remains closed indefinitely.
Although Upstairs Downstairs has a website, Cousineau said it only lists a small portion of the shop’s inventory, and she has found it difficult to connect with her customers virtually.
“People like to see things in person, and to measure them and get sense of what they are,” she said. “Ours really is a people business.”
Cousineau has applied for financial assistance from both the federal government and the city, but that has proven frustrating, however, since she is still awaiting the paperwork for the federal loan from Santander Bank she should have received nearly two weeks ago.
“There’s no funding for us,” she said. “We’re like a sitting duck.”
So to help defray the cost of repairing the damages to her store sustained during the flooding and to pay her rent, Cousineau has launched a GoFundMe “crowdfunding” campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/upstairs-downstairs-antiques?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet with the objective of raising $10,000.
“We have so many loyal customers,” she said. “If they each gave $10, we could reach our goal.”
Cousineau said Upstairs Downstairs has also done its part in the fight against COVID-19 by donating fabrics to make face masks.
Now she is just hoping to keep the business afloat during these trying times, however.
“I miss our customers, I miss employees, I miss the store – I have such a heavy heart, and it’s hard to figure out what to do here,” Cousineau said. “But at the end of the day, it’s important that my employees are healthy and safe, and we’ll figure out the rest.”