Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series about how locally-owned, small businesses in the Longview area are faring — and in some cases surviving — in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening a new business during a pandemic may seem like a daunting endeavor, but for native East Texans and military veterans Matthew and Lucero Harris, their response was “challenge accepted.”
Lucero Harris said because of the pandemic, she and her husband postponed the original opening date of Operation Unbroken in Longview. However, they decided to push forward with the idea that was hatched at the dinner table with their children, and the store opened in June.
Operation Unbroken is a veteran-owned retail business selling a variety of merchandise from apparel and food seasonings to coffee and skin and beard care products — all produced by veterans and veteran-owned companies.
Sales associate Dakota Stewart said the first six months of business at Operation Unbroken has been slow.
“I think everybody is hurting, and it doesn’t allow people to come in as often,” he said. “We’re still doing good, though.”
Lucero Harris said she believes the pandemic “opened everybody’s eyes a little bit, and they’re being more meaningful with their purchases.”
“People are shopping small and trying to stay away from the big names, and they want what they’re buying to matter — and that’s really helped us a lot,” she said.
For Small Business Saturday, the store offered a free Operation Unbroken T-shirt with purchases more than $75.
Lucero Harris said the business has relied heavily on word-of-mouth and social media for promotions.
“You can’t really go out to normal events to promote yourself,” she said, “but the community has really been rallying around us. We’re so thankful for everybody’s support in helping us make it the first six months.”
Stewart said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t really caused any business shakeups.
“It’s actually been fairly smooth because we started in the middle of it,” he said. “Nothing’s really had to be changed.”
For veteran customers, Stewart said the store is more like a military environment.
“You’ll be treated with respect,” he said. “Everybody is treated the same, and everybody understands that so you can just be yourself and not have to fake your attitude.”
Stewart, a veteran himself, said while supporting veterans, the business also offers inspiration.
“This shows you can do it,” he said. “You can make a business and you can be successful.”
Operation Unbroken is at 1747 W Loop 281 in Longview. Visit www.operationunbroken.com for information and business hours.