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COVID-19 is forcing small stores across Chicago to try online retail, but ‘we’re not Amazon’

Two years ago, Esther Fishman shut down her Lincoln Park-area clothing and gifts shop’s online store.

Art Effect’s bricks-and-mortar business was strong, and selling online seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

It seemed like the right call until this spring.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced all but essential retail stores to close, Art Effect rushed to get its online store back in business. Fishman has since hired a company to build a new, easier-to-use site.

Small neighborhood retailers used to compete with Amazon by catering to local shoppers who enjoy browsing in person. That’s still true — but in the six months since the pandemic began, a growing number are venturing onto Amazon’s turf.

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