Small Biz Saturday: Ann Arbor’s The Little Seedling puts ‘people over profits’ during pandemic

Molly Ging, owner of The Little Seeding, sets up to offer curbside service to Ann Arbor parents. (The Little Seedling/Molly Ging)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Small business owners already feel a lot of responsibility but Molly Ging, owner of The Little Seedling in Ann Arbor, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been an immense burden. 

Not only has she felt increasingly responsible for her staff and their children, but she feels responsible for keeping customers healthy. The Ann Arbor children’s store is used to sanitizing and cleaning, an inevitable as the store’s Junior Associates are actual children, but Ging won’t risk the health and safety of clients and staff. 

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 She closed the doors to The Little Seedling on Stadium Boulevard early on in the COVID-19 pandemic -- a cue she took from Ann Arbor bookstore, Literati. 

“Basically, Literati posted that they were closing their doors and I immediately thought ‘that’s probably the best move,’” said Ging, adding that most of her clients are high-risk pregnant women, new babies and children. 

“At that time we didn’t know how children played into the COVID landscape but we thought ‘there’s nothing good that can come out of children in our store who touch everything.‘”

The Little Seedling is known as a children-friendly place where customers and employees can bring their children to play and socialize.

Closed to in-person shopping, The Little Seedling switched to curbside service. According to Ging, her clientele was incredibly accepting and supportive of the switch but The Little Seedling had to close completely due to executive orders in Michigan.

“Technically, we could have been open the entire time because we were deemed essential, but I just did not feel comfortable putting my staff in that position to be working when we had very little information about what was going on,” said Ging.

When The Little Seedling reopened six-to-eight weeks later, Ging still wouldn’t risk her staff. For many weeks, she was the only person working curbside service shifts.

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Along with the switch to curbside pickup, the store has seen a change in what it sells. It used to sell a lot of children’s clothing. Now, it sells more basics and children’s entertainment including summer activities, water slides, puzzles and bubbles. 

Ging said that she has tried to adapt to the needs of her customers, and a big need was face masks designed for children. She brought in a large supply of kid’s masks and began posting videos on The Little Seedling Facebook page to show parents how the masks fit. 

Another change has been a disruption in supply chains. Ging said that her suppliers have experienced disruptions so while she is trying to anticipate future customer needs, she isn’t sure if she’ll have the same seasonal merchandise she usually offers.

Things at The Little Seedling have been rearranged, blocked off, or spread out in anticipation of reopening for in-building shopping but Ging said she isn’t ready to take the risk, particularly now as COVID-19 cases around Ann Arbor have recently increased.

 “I have staff to protect and I just can’t put them at unnecessary risk when we should be able to hop along with curbside pick up,” said Ging. “The Ann Arbor community is incredibly supportive and as long as they are willing to support us curbside, we’re gonna keep as many people safe. I just feel like it’s our obligation.”

Ging said that she believes in “people over profits” and would rather lose her business than put her staff in harm’s way. Her business has survived through tough times before.

Luckily, The Little Seedling has been able to bring back many employees to help with curbside services. Pickup hours are limited from noon to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; however, Ging said hours are subject to change due to staff availability. Updated hours can be found on a calendar on The Little Seedling website.

Started in 2003 as Tree City Diapers, The Little Seedling received its name when Ging moved her business to Zeeb Road in 2008. 

The children’s store business is now at 2121 W. Stadium Blvd.


About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.