It’s like the President says, “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will just disappear.” Yes, it’s absolutely true. If he had been talking about Bambu Batu, the House of Bamboo, in downtown San Luis Obispo, he would have been entirely correct.

Throughout the month of May, and for the better part of the last decade, you could have walked downtown and discovered an oasis of natural fibers and positive energy at 1023 Broad St, right alongside the creek. But then, one day, on June 1, 2020, you could have walked over there and found nothing but an empty shell. Indeed, the 14-year-old business, devoted to all things bamboo, just vanished overnight.

Alternative products and unusual conditions

Of course, a good many of our loyal customers were aware of our going-out-of-business sale, which actually started in mid March. But because of the strange coincidence in which the COVID-19 lockdown started on the same day, most people didn’t realize that we were actually still conducting business through the pandemic.

Even as the nation went into lockdown, I felt a growing sense of urgency to escape from retail, from San Luis Obispo, and from this faltering country. As we announced our plans, I encountered an overwhelming response of denial and disappointment. “No, you can’t close the store! This is only reason I have to come downtown anymore!”

Sad though it may be, the time had come to bring an end to this beautiful experiment called Bambu Batu. For 14 years we flourished, providing a special setting infused with wholesome, natural products amidst a realm of higher vibrations. And those who were attuned to this energy never hesitated to express their appreciation. So for all those years, it was a genuinely satisfying profession.

The business was also founded on the principle of sustainability, bamboo being perhaps the most sustainable and renewable resource on the planet. But the time had come when it was no longer sustainable to maintain the level of higher energetics that had made Bambu Batu so special and unique. Quality of life trumps quantity of life, and so it became necessary to take the business off of its life support system.

With that in mind, we decided to shut the shop down, rather than prolong its life through unnatural means. Even as the rest of the world, driven by the instinct for self-preservation, was sheltering at home and hiding from the deadly coronavirus. So the first few weeks of the liquidation sale went pretty slow. I toiled night and day to drive business to our website and promote direct deliveries for curbside pick up.

I also had plenty of time to document the events in this series of blog posts. They provide all the detailed background to explain why exactly I decided to close the shop.

Narrow escape from near apocalypse

When the statewide lockdown went into effect on the same day I had planned to kick off our liquidation sale, it did not seem like a favorable omen. How was I going to sell off all our bamboo merchandise when everyone was being instructed to stay home and close their offices? I couldn’t imagine a more ominous stroke of misfortune.

Now that the dust has settled, however, it’s clear that everything unfolded just as it needed to. All of those disturbing events we’ve seen in the last few months point to the fact that closing the store and converting to all e-commerce was the best possible solution. Any shopkeeper who is persevering and keeping their business running through this unprecedented climate is going to be in for some very difficult challenges.

Owning and operating a small business is hard enough even under the best of economic conditions. But in times like this, it’s all about plan B. Toward late April, I realized I needed to be out and done by the end of May. No matter what happened, I couldn’t stick around and pay rent for another month. The world was turning somersaults and I needed to get off the merry-go-round before the next wave of crisis erupted. I didn’t know exactly what was around the next corner, but I knew I needed to get out.

And like magic, I was able to liquidate about 99% of the shop merchandise in the month of May. When it was over, the inventory I couldn’t sell was not even enough to fill a couple of small shelves. The close-out sale could not possibly have been more successful.

So on May 31st, we loaded the U-haul moving truck, which turned out to be about 10 times larger than what we needed. And on the following morning, June 1st, we drove off towards a new life, with Bambu Batu as a strictly online business. And that very same night, many businesses on Marsh and Higuera were boarding up their windows for fear of rioting and looting in downtown SLO.

Like a miracle, it seems that we moved out at just the right time. But don’t worry, it’s not like we’ve disappeared. You can keep shopping for bamboo sheets and bamboo t-shirts on our website. And you can keep following our blog to stay abreast of my latest adventures.

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