Businesses adapting to changes caused by COVID-19

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While the coronavirus pandemic is threatening the health of individuals, it is also threatening the health of small businesses.

Due to an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper, all “non-essential” businesses have either had to close entirely or change their approach.

Bethany Laws-Grindstaff, owner and operator of Don’t Tease Me Hair & Nail Salon in Bakersville, said it’s been especially difficult for people in her profession.

“It’s really hurting us hairdressers,” she said. “We can’t social distance. We have to touch people and be right in their face.”

Laws-Grindstaff said this is usually the time of year when business picks up, but customers started canceling their appointments in early March when the threat became a reality. 

“After the cold weather and flu season goes away, we usually see more business,” she said. “But then, this came and killed everything.”

Even though her business has been negatively impacted, Laws-Grindstaff agreed with the Cooper. She had already closed her shop before the order because she wanted to protect the health and safety of her customers and family. 

“I have family members with underlying health conditions that I could pass it to and I didn’t want to take that chance,” she said. “I thought it would be best to just stay at home.”

Jon Allen, owner and operator of Fitness Express in Spruce Pine, also closed his doors before the order. He said this situation is especially frightening for small businesses because there is no precedent.

“As a business owner, there’s no magical manual out there that tells you what to do in a pandemic,” Allen said. “Everyone is doing what they have to do to make it through this really serious, scary situation.”

Allen is nervous about the possible impact this might have on his business, but he’s trying to look at the positives in his life. 

“We have no choice but to get through it,” he said. “So we just got to do what we got to do, pray really hard and focus on the good.”

While restaurants have not been fully closed down, many have had to change their operations to accommodate curbside pickup and carryout. 

Harley Masters, co-owner and operator of Southern Ridge Café in Bakersville, said although they were already a takeout-heavy restaurant due to limited indoor seating, since the executive order, they have seen a significant drop in the number of orders. 

“It’s slowed down a lot because most of our regular customers are county workers and teachers who are now working from home,” she said. “We miss a lot of our regulars,” she said. “They’re more like family, not customers. Morale is a little down because we miss everybody, but we also want everyone to be safe.”

Masters said she is lucky she hasn’t had to make any tough decisions about letting any of her employees go. 

“Worst-case scenario, I will choose not to take a paycheck so they can have theirs,” she said. “I know this is their primary source of income.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, granted a disaster declaration Thursday, March 19, to small businesses across the state, which allows affected businesses to apply for low-interest SBA disaster loans. 

This article has been updated with the correct name of Harley Masters' restaurant, which is Southern Ridge Cafe.