Hill merchant needed a windfall to survive pandemic

by Len Lear
Posted 6/23/21

Cynthia Fillmor began working at Windfall Gallery in 2007, then took over the business from Kaye Baluarte when she retired in January of 2014. Baluarte had opened Windfall in 1984.

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Hill merchant needed a windfall to survive pandemic


Cynthia Fillmore, who is mid-40-ish, began working at Windfall Gallery, 7944 Germantown Ave., in 2007. After working there for seven years, Fillmore, who previously had worked in television production, took over the business from Kaye Baluarte when she retired in January of 2014. Baluarte had opened Windfall in 1984.

The shop carries creations from over 250 artisans, including a large selection of artistic jewelry, folk art, home décor, garden art, etc. Needless to say, the pandemic wreaked havoc on Fillmore and the business, so we conducted the following interview last week to find out how Windfall survived:

How is Scout, the “Shop Dog,” doing?
“Scout is so happy to be back to work! He missed greeting customers. He’s a rescue, so we’re not certain of his exact age or breed mix. He's about 8.”

How did you do with SBA loans and grants?
Thankfully, I was able to take advantage of the EIDL advance and loan. It helped get me through the rough spots. The Chestnut Hill community also came together to create a Small Business Grant that I was able to take advantage of. Every little bit helped, and I’m so grateful.”

Did social media help much in getting through this?
“Social media definitely helped get us through the shutdown. I went 'Live' on Facebook & Instagram every Wednesday and called it 'Windfall Wednesday.' I was able to interact with customers and sell some products, a big help both emotionally and financially.”

What about webinars? Produce any results?
“I attended at least one webinar per week to keep myself and fellow business owners on the Avenue informed as to what was going on. Most specifically, the webinars with the SBA and CDFI’s on how to navigate the ever-changing PPP & EIDL.”

How have virtual shopping and curbside pickup worked?
Virtual shopping worked out just fine when we had limited hours and had to remain more than socially distant. It is something I definitely did not enjoy or feel comfortable doing, but I pushed through and made the best of it. Have you ever heard your own voice or watched your mannerisms and body language? Yuck! I couldn’t stand it. We still offer shopping via text and email, curbside pickup and local deliveries.”

What are your children’s names and ages? How have they done with your home-schooling?
“I have three girls: Keeley, 17; Ryan, 15, and Makenzie, almost 13. The at-home schooling adjustment took a while, but once we were in a routine, they got by with little to no help. My husband is the one who dealt with them the most. He is a saint!”

If you had it all go do over again, knowing what you know now, would you still run your own retail business?
“Yes! I’ve always said you have to be half-crazy to run a retail business, and I put myself in that category … My customers are the fuel that keep this business going. I would not have survived 2020 without their support. I still look forward to going to work every day because of them.”

How long did you meet via Zoom with other women business owners in Chestnut Hill?
“We met once per week, and it was our saving grace, our sanity. The collaboration was crucial while we all pivoted … We came up with the Keep It On The Hill campaign and kept an open conversation on how to continually work together and support one another. We are about to get together in-person for the first time since March, 2020.”

What is the best advice you have ever received?
“You run the business; the business doesn’t run you.”

What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
“Business-wise, survive the pandemic!”

What person has had the greatest impact on your life? Why?
“Businesses-wise, Kaye Baluarte, former Windfall Gallery owner. She has been my mentor and one of my biggest supporters. I started working for Kaye in 2007 when my second daughter was one. I immediately fell in love with Windfall Gallery, and Kaye taught me everything I needed to know, not only about how to run a successful business but life lessons as well. I can always lean on her whenever I need help both business-wise and personally.”

For more information, visit windfallgallery.com or call 215-247-6303. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com