In the time of COVID-19, when losses of all sorts are mounting, small victories can feel anything but small.
For Michele Pierson, owner of Gilroy’s Cal Silk, the fact her screen printing press is still turning out T-shirts is one of those victories.
“I’m thankful,” Pierson said. “I’m thankful the business is still afloat and we were able to make it through those months of not working. It was rough.”
Pierson credits her history of offering a good product at a good price as one reason her livelihood was able to survive the pandemic-induced drop in business. She also believes it is due in part to past good deeds. One, a year ago, in particular.
“One hundred percent,” Pierson said.
Like so many other Gilroy natives, the annual Garlic Festival holds a special place in Pierson’s heart. For decades, Cal Silk had a booth selling T-shirts there, first under her mother’s ownership, and then Pierson’s. The deadly shooting, one year ago, felt personal.
“It was awful,” Pierson said. “It was devastating.”
Pierson wanted to help her community, and she knew just how to do it. It was something she learned, Pierson said, from her mother.
In the wake of 9/11, Pierson’s mother organized a fundraiser that collected $20,000 for the Red Cross. Pierson wanted to do something similar for Gilroy.
Within 48 hours of the shooting, Pierson’s press was turning out T-shirts emblazoned with her community’s new rallying cry: #GilroyStrong.
“The response was incredible,” Pierson said. “We had people wrapped around this building. ‘What can I do? How can I help?’”
Pierson says she and her team worked around the clock for days to produce the shirts, donating their time, making no money off the shirts, just wanting to do something to help her community heal from a devastating loss.
“Life isn’t living if you’re not giving,” Pierson said.
Pierson said she knew at the time her neighbors appreciated her efforts, but not until the COVID-19 shutdowns threatened her business, did she realize that the goodwill she created was coming back to help her.
“People said, ‘We’re coming to you because of what you did,’” Pierson said.
Pierson said the business those customers have brought to her is the reason she has been able to survive the downturn.
“I’m humbled, I’m blessed, and I’m thankful,” she said.