Norfolk small business launches during pandemic, banks on sustainability selling

Posted at 4:08 PM, May 26, 2020

NORFOLK, Va.— Chris Simmonds turned an early lesson into Less Than— a store that’s more than just essential items.

“I found that I’ve always done something sustainable— even since a child, growing up in a household where we had to be resourceful."

Less Than is a zero-waste and refill shop on Shirley Ave. in Ghent.

You won’t find any plastic, but you will find household items in containers that can be reused, recycled or composted.

Simmons launched his online shop,, in February and moved into the physical store in May. He held a soft-launch Saturday— taking a big risk that comes with a big reward for the environment.

“People still need to brush their teeth. People still need soap and deodorant,” says Simmonds. “With the uncertainty about the origins of the virus and health in general, we just figured that people will gravitate towards something that’s not only good for them, but also the planet.”

The small business lives up to the name. With just 800 sq. ft., there are several guidelines for shopping safely.

“We ask that everybody wears a mask when they come in, and we have ones to provide them,” explained Simmonds.

There’s a five-customer limit, and people can sanitize their hands on the way in and out.

There are social distancing markers six feet apart on the floor, and he says he wipes down surfaces during his downtime.

Related: 'Business is down 75 percent': Local soap making company ready for virus to rinse away

The refill side of the store where customers can bring reusable containers to fill with lotions or soaps is planned to open next week. Simmonds says he will have gloves on the table for people to use while touching the pumps and will wipe down the area after customers get their supplies.

You can skip the store altogether and shop online for pick up or delivery.

“The store is really just a platform to help people make easier decisions and to be more purposeful about being sustainable,” says Simmonds.

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