Pandemic Hits Local Businesses with New Challenges

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Samantha Gibbs, Staff Writer

“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” – Steve Case, co-founder AOL.  Many have been wondering about how their lives will never be the same since the pandemic hit. Many people have been affected by COVID-19, but plenty of other things have been affected. Being a small business owner in the middle of a pandemic brings up whole other set of problems and creative solutions.

The Midway Café is a small business in the middle of Fort Thomas.  The menu there consists of chicken wings, burgers, beer, salad, and more. The restaurant had been building a client base and reputation then Covid-19 hit.   The owners were faced with problems they had not encountered before.  The key to keeping the doors open was safety.  Employees have been sanitizing areas, such as door handles, as often as every hour. Since they had to cut the capacity in half of its usual amount, it became harder to earn the same profits.  The revenue has reportedly decreased a small amount. Ms. Staci Edmonds, one of the four owners of Midway Café, said they have had to be more “creative” in getting customers to come back to the business. She also said that she is hopeful business will go back to normal soon.

A neighbor to The Midway Café is Grassroots & Vine. This business has a menu filled with fresh food from flatbreads to paninis to kid-friendly food, and much more. But they don’t just keep the food fresh, they also make sure to clean areas as freshly sanitized as possible. To also keep community members safe, they have had to reduce the number of people allowed inside in half so that the customers can socially distance. But with cutting the capacity in half cuts the revenue in half. So, earnings from the business decreased. Grassroots & Vine offers carry-out and delivery which has helped financially. Maintaining cleanliness so that customers are as safe as possible has reassured community members who have continued to support the business. Mrs. Barb Thomas, owner of Grassroots & Vine, said that they are having a “family-friendly” outdoor patio event through the month of October. At this event, there is hot chocolate, s’mores, heaters, and blankets that are sanitized after each use. It seems they understand what people need right now, which is comfort and coziness.

A business that knows how to make people feel cozy, Fort Thomas Coffee is ensuring community members’ safety and emotional comfort during these hard times. People can come here to enjoy something to help start the day and/or keep them going throughout it. However, it wasn’t necessarily the coffee and the food that kept Christine Smalley, co-owner of Fort Thomas Coffee, going. She said, “Our community is living out 2020 through a variety of perspectives and unique experiences and our compassion and empathy have grown by getting the chance to interact with each other.” She also said that they have been “embracing the community” even while this disease has been circling the globe. In order to keep people safe, a number of precautions have been taken such as sanitizing public touch points often, added sanitizer stations available to customers, and having all disposable items. In order to keep everyone happy and coming back, they have transformed the kids’ play area into a study hall for individual workers, college students, or remote learning students. They are also in the process of developing a system that will have a dozen individual coffees or lattes to be transported to the employees of a school or business for a treat. In addition to that, they are looking to have a suggestion box that allows members of the community to nominate someone in need of feeling appreciated, accepted, or maybe is helpful to the community. That person will receive a gift package. In return for all that they have done, Fort Thomas Coffee’s revenue increased in March and has kept increasing as October continues and cold weather sets foot in people’s lives. They say they are very grateful and will continue to let the community know that they appreciate it.

As the world is changing in all kinds of ways, local businesses have been there the whole time. It might not be very noticeable, but they have probably changed almost every aspect of the way they manage situations to assure the community’s safely during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.