Seeing Progress in Things Growing
Over-the-Rhine’s The Native One
gives customers a chance to be part of the solution.
By Joan Kaup
The Native One in Over-the-Rhine is filled with curated clothing, accessories, and selected home décor including plants – the many beautiful creature comforts that make us feel good about ourselves and our environment. That’s not as easy today as it was two months ago. Coronavirus and sheltering at home challenges us. Anna Steffen, The Native One owner and founder, is meeting that challenge with customer care and community kindness.
“About 400 clothing manufacturers in Los Angeles have switched from making their spring/summer collections to sewing non-surgical masks,” she says. She is now procuring these masks for local hospitals. “There is no profit or markup in the transactions. I buy the masks for 50 cents apiece and sell them to our customers for 50 cents apiece, but I don’t send them to the customers. Instead I sent them to the hospitals. Our customers become part of the solution in fighting COVID-19 by purchasing and donating masks to the doctors, nurses and patients who need them so desperately.”
“My sister is an emergency nurse at a hospital in Lexington, and my mom is a R.N. at Christ Hospital. I talk with them daily and know firsthand the challenges and heartbreaks that they are facing.” Steffen’s sister wore the same N95 mask for three weeks because there were no supplies to change it. Healthcare workers fasten a non-surgical mask over the top of the N95 to avoid cross-contaminating patients.
As for non-surgical masks, each patient admitted into the hospital, whether it’s for the virus or an injury, needs one. The demand for them continues grow. The goal for The Native One was to originally procure and donate 5,000 masks. Already, they’ve reached 4,600. “We will continue to purchase and donate masks as long as there is a demand for them. Steffen smiles when she says, “I want to give a very genuine warm shout out to all of our customers who are helping in this way”
Steffen worked in retail as a teenager at florists, clothing stores, in the mall and in independent stores. She knew that was what she was meant to do and began her research and her business plan in high school. With the support of her family (Mom said, “You be you.”), Steffen postponed college and opened The Native One on Main Street in December 2018. In April of 2019, she moved to 1421 Vine Street where it became a popular destination for weekend shoppers. In October 2019, Steffen opened a second, larger store at 326 Scott Blvd. in Covington.
While only 23, Steffen navigates the world of retail and the challenges of sheltering in place like a woman wise beyond her years as she shares her perspective on this current crisis and where she finds hope and renewal. “I think people see plants as friends,” she says. “They are something to nurture. You see progress of things growing. It’s fun to see a new leaf sprout. It’s good to take care of them now. Customers can select a container and have us pot the plant. We are happy to do that so they don’t have to mess with soil.” That’s customer service with a smile.
Most items from The Native One can be ordered for delivery or pickup. While Steffen had to furlough her four employees, she was able to bring back two to help with inventory, fulfillment, and delivery within a 25 miles radius of downtown Cincinnati.
In the interim, what is Steffen doing to take care of herself? “I’ve been cooking a lot lately. I love eating in restaurants, but right now I am making bread and I don’t even eat it all, I just give it away. I tried homemade pasta for the first time, and I had no idea I had the capability to do it. Every day I’m moving. I can’t sit still - working, walking, maybe a movement video on YouTube.”
“It worries me to see the stress people are enduring. I am nervous and uncertain of how this will change people’s habits. When will they feel confident and comfortable to go out, to shop, to congregate? It may be months and months of living with this fear.”
Steffen is capable of much more than making homemade pasta. She’s helping people make peace in their homes and given situations.