Following an unexpected accident, Change reopens in temporary location

After an SUV crashed into her shop, Nikki Anderson quickly transported everything to 305 S. Livingston St.
The fair trade fashion boutique shop 'Change' sells bandanas, dresses and jewelry at its temporary location.
Photo by Gaby Vinick.
The fair trade fashion boutique shop 'Change' is open temporarily on 305 S. Livingston St.

Nikki Anderson is forward-thinking, familiar with change — it’s the name of her fair trade, fashion boutique. But she never could have predicted the barrage of phone calls and texts she would receive Monday morning, Aug. 2. 

Anderson had been working off-site the week prior and her car was full of inventory. What should have been a relaxing first day off spiraled out of control when she learned an SUV had rammed into her store, marking the fourth vehicle-versus-storefront crash in the last decade on Williamson Street.

“It was extremely disorienting,” Anderson says. “Nobody had any suggestions about what to do, because it’s just such an anomalous situation.” 

Callers alerted Anderson to a gaping hole in the store and advised her to get there fast, in case anyone thought of looting. After a stressful, six-hour wait speaking with insurance agents, an inspector and a structural engineer, she was finally allowed to enter her space. But not for long.

Witnessing the damage, Anderson bid an emotional — though temporary — goodbye to Change for at least the next two months. Anderson says she couldn’t allow herself to feel powerless for long — she needed to take action.

Protecting the inventory was her first priority. Anderson is proud of Change, which ethically sources all of its jewelry, clothing and items at affordable prices. She says she luckily only lost about three items, not enough to adversely affect her bottom line — unlike Thai restaurant Ha Long Bay, which had dealt with a similar situation in 2018 and lost electricity, in turn losing all of its perishable items.

“It’s a different way to troubleshoot a situation, depending on the nature of the business that this happens to. And in my case, there was really no template,” she says. Anderson went ahead and took matters in her own hands, but acknowledges, “It’s important to have those conversations and address the bigger issue so that it’s not a chronic problem, it’s an isolated incident.”

Even after learning she had to switch gears and move to a new, temporary location, Anderson stayed calm. 

“There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” she says. Besides, her community helped.

Change’s doors were custom-made and hard to replace. Even with the metal twisted, the glass — dislodged from its frame — remained intact. One man called the precarious glass situation a “widowmaker,” and he shattered it because he warned it could kill someone if it fell on its own.

The longtime tenants living upstairs, also rattled by the collision, had to evacuate in the middle of the night. But Anderson says they were “selfless” as they helped carry boxes of inventory and even brought her a phone charger in the morning.

Friends and other neighbors offered help as well,  knowing Anderson was determined to stay in business despite the setback. When Anderson, half-joking, asked her landlord if there happened to be any vacancies, he mentioned 305 S. Livingston St. — and she jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t long before she got the keys and began moving in.

Although Anderson is grateful for the temporary spot, she plans to move back to her original location soon. She’d kept her shop on the corner of South Baldwin St. and Williamson St. for nine years and feels a strong attachment. She’d given thought to every component of the interior, including the fitting rooms, which were built with recycled materials.

Beyond the building, Anderson cares most about the artisans whose wares she sells; the hard work they put in and the people they are. 

“To me, their stories are what are so inspiring,” she says. For example, each item purchased from the apparel brand Wolven, which uses recycled plastic bottle materials, saves about 27 bottles that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill or the ocean. With each purchase, customers can learn about the difference they are making.

“I’m awakening alongside everyone else. The learning curve continues to happen for me, and I’m grateful that the vendors I work with do such a good job of telling the story of the groups that they’re connecting with them, helping to facilitate bringing their products to market,” Anderson says. 

Notwithstanding the adrenaline rush and stress of the accident and unexpected move, Anderson can finally sigh with relief.

“The way that day started and the way it ended were totally different. I’m so grateful,” she says. Anderson emphasizes that she still has air conditioning, health care and access to clean air, making the incident an inconvenience more than anything. 

Her mission to move to a sustainable future — one where buyers know and can even exchange notes with the garment-makers — continues.

“Everything that was true when I opened the store, and that’s been true for the nine years I’ve been in business, is now even more so the case because the pandemic has disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable in the world, and our poorest countries are the hardest hit,” Anderson says. “This opportunity that we’re providing is even more important.”

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