Henry Harper

Park resident Jennifer Harper shops at Sota Clothing. Small businesses like this one have to learn how to adapt to COVID-19 daily.

Local businesses adjust to keep doors open

Pandemic impacts community

December 12, 2020

According to Business Insider, small businesses have been shutting down due to COVID-19. Many small businesses can’t afford to have a month-long interference which results in closure. CNBC said the closure rate has gone up 10 percent since July. 

St. Louis Park businesses including Half Priced Books, Parkway Pizza, Sota Clothing and the block said they feel the level of stress has remained the same from before the pandemic, however it stems for different reasons. Additionally businesses have had to adjust to accommodate safety precautions and the decrease in business.   

How COVID-19 affected small businesses

Working during the pandemic has been very challenging for many small businesses, especially for their workers. When looking back at the experience before the pandemic, an employee at Half Priced Books Lindsay Dorsey said work has always been a positive environment

“(Business) was good, it was always really busy, kind of typical retail. It’s great to be able to help people find books and it was a good experience. At the corporate level, they care about us, and it was a pretty good feeling,” Dorsey said.

Since COVID-19 hit, Dorsey said business has slowed and some employees have left, however, they are managing their way through it.

“Some of our staff had to leave, so on a personal level it has been hard because everybody was friends here and it just makes more work now and it’s tough,” Dorsey said. “We don’t have as many people coming into the store because people are staying home. We have done a lot of online sales, so that has been good, but it’s hard.”

As the virus began affecting the community, businesses started making necessary changes. According to assistant manager at The Block Nicholas Jones, their quick reaction to the new circumstances has helped them through the pandemic.

“We shut down a day before the directive and then we shifted immediately to a take out and delivery-only model,” Jones said. “We got on every third party platform we could, just try and get as creative and innovative as we could to stay ahead of the curve and maintain as much business volume as we could.” 

Amongst the negative effects COVID-19 has had on businesses, sophomore and employee at Parkway Pizza Sophia Nagorski has seen some positive impacts during her work at Parkway Pizza.

“We’re still taking a lot of takeout and delivery orders. People are still getting our food in their hands and especially when they’re in takeout they see our cookies or they see our drinks and they want this or that so that has definitely been adding on money,” Nagorski said. 

We don’t have as many people coming into the store because people are staying home. We have done a lot of online sales, so that has been good, but it’s hard.

— Lindsay Dorsey

According to Jones, although they had to quickly modify their handle on things, they came back and profited off what they could.

“(Biggest difference was) having to change the model and really adapting and pivoting faster than we’ve ever had to before to try and stay ahead of the curve,” Jones said. “The biggest thing (that) changed immediately was the immediate spike in take-out, we were doing $3,000 before covid and it peaked to $45,000.”

How new regulations affected small business

Manager of the clothing store Sota Clothing Molly Andersen said although the business was affected by the pandemic, they were still able to maintain sales.

“We had to close down for a little bit until the governor let us open. We had to come up with a COVID-19 preparedness response plan in order to open,” Andersen said. “We were lucky to have a strong online store before all of this so it was easier for us to transition everything online and then eventually our point of sale allowed us to do curbside pickup.”  

According to Nagorski, without the pandemic there would be more people coming into the store. 

“We would definitely have a lot more indoor tables and less takeout (orders),” Nagorski said. “Currently, we have a lot of takeout or delivery and less inside tables but also people wouldn’t use the patio as much because it’s simply different.” 

We are going to keep our practice the same even going forward like we’re going to maybe have a capacity limit, we’re still gonna clean and stuff.

— Molly Andersen

One of the biggest challenges for businesses opening back up has been enforcing guidelines to keep everyone safe. According to Andersen, the new regulations have helped them keep everything under control and allow them to keep business open. They installed hand sanitizer stations, a maximum capacity of 10 people and increased cleaning.

“We’ve enforced masks from day one when we were allowed to open even before statewide mandate just because we knew it was important for us to stay working and stay open and since then we’ve had shopper limits, curbside pick up, we have fans on, hand sanitation centers and hand sanitizer everywhere,” Andersen said.

 After a new list of regulations was given to businesses Nov. 20, Jones said that they are trying the best they can to keep everyone safe. 

“(We are) ordering extra to-go supplies because we are going to be doing that more than prior. We did limit the menu slightly to ease the execution on that as well, otherwise all of the preparedness plans are still in place, we screen all of our employees and things to make sure everyone is safe,” Jones said. 

Many changes have been made to adapt to the current precautions . According to Andersen, she said they will most likely keep some of the new adaptations they have made.

“We are going to keep our practice the same even going forward like we’re going to maybe have a capacity limit, we’re still gonna clean and stuff. I don’t know how long it’s gonna go on, it’s our new normal, I think we’re just learning how to cope with it. Just learn to deal with the changes because they are for the better,” Andersen said. 

Although the new regulations are affecting the businesses, Andersen said with the holidays coming up they are being positively impacted because of an increase in numbers. 

“With it being close to Christmas time people are just excited to be shopping, they’re glad stores are open so we definitely have to enforce our shopper limit,” Andersen said. “We’re also lucky we have an online store in case people don’t want to come in, they can shop online.” 

How to support the businesses

Although there are many unknowns that come with the pandemic, Dorsey said the pandemic has changed the business for the better.

“Most of it comes down to just when the pandemic is over. We’ve been handling it as well as we really could. It’ll just be great in the future when things have leveled off and we have more room to grow and adapt,” Dorsey said. 

According to Jones, he said that receiving constant orders and having people follow the guidelines, is what will benefit the community.

“Ordering food, and following the rules because the faster the public adheres to the guidelines my belief is that the faster the cases will drop and the sooner the restrictions will drop,” Jones said.

Community support is vital to small and local businesses at this time. Andersen said the best way to support business is by respecting the COVID-19 guidelines and maintaining constant profits.

“The biggest thing (to support) is making sure that when you’re shopping for your holiday presents to remember that shopping locally really helps small businesses,” Andersen said. “Along with following the rules that we put in place, we put them in place for a reason and if everyone follows them everyone stays safe.”


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