COVID-19 threw a wrench into everyone’s lives, but the impact on small business was devasting
Or was it? Were there businesses that flourished? Or, maybe, with the new mandates businesses had to do to survive, maybe they’ve seen greater results than expected.
To get perspective from different fields of industry, the Sun sent out questionnaires on that topic. Responses came from Marsha Hovey at Trollhaugen, Nicole Bartley at The Sleepy Thicket, Sara Haase at Croix-View Farm, Shelby Friendshuh from Wilberg Library, Bob Wolf from Wild River Fitness and Gwen Wright at the Looking Glass.
Just how bad was it?
“This was the busiest season we’ve had in 70 years,” said Hovey. “We are so fortunate to have been busy while so many others were experiencing full closures. However, the logistics of safely operating a ski area during a pandemic had us constantly adapting and learning what was best to keep our staff and guests as safe as possible. There were some stressful moments to say the least!”
Stated Friendshuh: “We are fortunate that we were able to provide services and access to information even when completely closed. Even at the worst of the pandemic, when the library was completely closed in response to the safer-at-home order we saw publishers and authors coming forward giving librarians permission to read their books virtually and even zoos and other destinations opening up virtual tours for free.”
Added Wolf: “We knew we were going to reopen, unfortunately, our road to recovery has meant some hard decisions in the short term. Our instructor corps is smaller than we’re used to as we grapple with class size limitations, some members are waiting out this pandemic before coming back, and our popular child care has been discontinued.”
Answered Wright: “We were shutdown for three months. It was extremely stressful being a business over during those times. We were one of the businesses that were considered nonessential. That was hard because it was essential for me to feed my girls and support and provide for them. I had to buckle down hard and figure out ways to produce income. Running a small business during those times were extremely emotional times.”
Said Haase: “For us it wasn’t bad. It was a little stressful at first not knowing what was going to happen. But we are lucky to have such amazing clients who were so understanding.”
The lockdown effects
Hovey stated their ski season ended March 15, 2020, and there were concerns about the summer season.
“Being able to provide a fun and safe outdoor experience was extremely important to us, and we were successful in doing so,” she said. “It quickly became apparent that outdoor activities were in high demand, and that the winter was going to be a busy one.”
Added Haase: “We were lucky in that Polk County didn’t shut everything down completely. We did follow the restaurant recommendations and did ask our couples to reduce their guest counts to at least half our capacity (Full capacity is 300).”
To prove timing is everything in today’s world, Bartley said they signed their lease and accepted the keys for their physical location in February 2020. She said they opened March 7 and 10 days later were closed.
“We were able to pivot back to our online storefront, but we were now paying for rent for our physical space that we could no longer utilize,” she continued.
Wright said the lockdown forced businesses similar to hers to get creative.
“We brainstormed together and supported one another,” she said. “…Covid forced you to push yourself as a business owner. There was no time to sit it out. If you wanted to save your business, you better have been creative. We all hustled and started creating a stronger business community.”
Friendshuh said while the Library was closed (it is now open) affected staff members deeply.
“The rewarding experience of interacting with our patrons is something we look forward to every day,” she said.
Wolf recognized the closure had on its members.
“We also felt pain for our members who, in an instant, no longer had the fitness component to their daily lives which, based on member feedback, upended their quality of life.”