COVID-19’s Effect On Local Businesses

Local Businesses Take Financial Hit Due To COVID-19

Due to COVID-19 many businesses have closed their doors with hopes to reopen.

Courtesy Of MERS Virus

Due to COVID-19 many businesses have closed their doors with hopes to reopen.

Joshua Piper, Staff Writer

As the economy falls due to the COVID-19 crisis, many industries have tanked and have had to adjust to the current situation. While this helps reinforce the quarantine it comes at a high cost.

The central issue sprouts from the loss of consumer participation, as many lack the funds to support any “unessential business.” Furthermore, the physical restrictions set by the quarantine prevent many establishments to continue operations as the  physical presence of workers and patrons is required. Therefore, places like gyms, restaurants, and salons have been forced to either close their doors or adjust to the current circumstances.

“We have had to make some changes to our sanitation and personal hygiene policies,” said Chris Shine, owner of Frank’s Americana Revival restaurant. “We have a staff member in the front and back of the house whose primary function is to sanitize all work spaces, door handles, sinks & fixtures…during his shift. We are requiring all employees to wear gloves and likely masks given recent recommendations by health officials. Operationally, we have had to pivot from a full service establishment to one that only provides only curbside carry out and delivery.”

While these adjustments are successful, sales have decreased due to increased fear of the disease and many having lost a source of revenue to pay for a meal.

“To attempt to quantify the effect on Frank’s from a simple economic perspective, our sales are down 50 to 60 percent from the first two weeks of March to the last two,” Shine said.

”The restaurant business is an industry of small profit margins in the best of times.  That amount of decline would be devastating to most operations. And most operations are probably experiencing sales reductions more in the range of 75 to 90 percent, if they were fortunate enough to even remain open. We have been more than fortunate, even so far as lucky I would say.”

Many other restaurants have implemented curbside and carry out service. Another restaurant, Lomonte’s Italian Restaurant, has seen great community feedback to their curbside and carry out delivery.

“We have been truly blessed to be in a very supportive community,” Braden Lomonte, Owner of Lomonte’s Italian Restaurant said. ”Pecan Grove and surrounding neighborhoods have really gone above and beyond. The regulars/customers have also been extremely generous with their tips. It has helped the staff tremendously during these times.”

However, when going to restaurants, the atmosphere is a huge part in convincing patrons to eat at an establishment, and having to make a round trip to a restaurant and back to one’s home to eat can be inconvenient. Because of this discrepancy, many places have taken to the media. Establishments have begun advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and asking the public to share their messages in order to get more customers.

“The crisis has forced us to get very aggressive with our social media advertising,” Lomonte said. “We will do daily family specials that are a very cost effective way to feed the family during tough times. We were fortunate to already have family ‘party packs’ on our menu and be set-up to handle a large volume of take-out business.”

Other businesses haven’t been as fortunate as the service they provide cannot be so easily adjusted to the quarantine regulations. For example, Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts Gym, owned and run by Richard and Samantha Burmaster, have had to try to move their services onto a virtual platform.

“We host zoom meetups for kids classes, and post videos for kids to follow along with,” the Burmasters said. ”We do the zoom meetups from our house.”

While Zoom has proven to be useful, it cannot solve problems regarding loss of revenue. The consumer will not be able to purchase the services or memberships at a gym like Strong Style because of the loss of money at their own workplace.

“We have not been able to keep our memberships since we’re not able to have anyone at our facility,” the Burmasters said. ”The loss of revenue impacts our ability to pay rent, utilities and loans.”

Program 17 is a training program for softball players that uses technology to track a player’s batting progress. Despite the ability to utilize technology from home, the players lose the opportunity to get in person lessons. This causes difficulty as sports are very physical and a hands on learning style is the best approach to coaching athletic technique. COVID-19 inhibits the growth of the company and has nearly halted the growth of many players.

“Because we are a membership based company that allows lessons to rollover, we haven’t been dramatically affected as of yet,” Christy Connor, owner of Program 17 said. ”However, the biggest impact will be the momentum we had continuing to grow as a new company.”

The best thing for the public to do is to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and to support local and small businesses, as many are struggling.

“Most of those ‘mom & pop’s’ will close and never reopen,” Shine said. “That is a tragedy.  If you are going to get a meal from a restaurant do so from a place where the owner and staff are your neighbors.  That really is community involvement.  When you have a great meal provided by one of those places, use social media and the old word of your mouth to tell everyone you can.  Promote those places so that others can see the value in supporting them now, so that they might be around in 6 months.”