Small Businesses Navigate through Covid


Isa Neufarth, Writer

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), “Across the sample, 41.3% of businesses reported that they were temporarily closed because of COVID 19.” That’s almost half of all businesses, but there was an even greater impact on small, local businesses. Fort Thomas has small businesses that survived Covid, such as The Midway Café, Fort Thomas Coffee, and Monera Chic Boutique, but they all had to make changes throughout the pandemic to survive.   

One of the businesses is The Midway Café. It has been a part of Fort Thomas for the past 90 years and made multiple adjustments to survive during Covid-19. New owners Mr. and Mrs. Dave and Staci Edmonds and Mr. Matt Albers and Mrs. Erika Kraus bought and remodeled the building in 2015. There were many precautions taken during the virus for any business, such as temporary shutdowns, mask wearing, and sanitizing. Mrs. Kraus said, “We always followed state and CDC protocols. From mask wearing, glove wearing to extra cleaning, to having a company come and sanitize the restaurant weekly.” Based on this, the employees and customers had to be aware and up to date with the changing rules and guidelines. The Midway, along with many other businesses, came up with strategies and ideas to stay open or keep customers coming to their establishment. The Midway, to help other establishments during these hard times, bought gift cards from other local places, and gave them to their to-go customers. Along with that, they streamed live videos with things such as raffles and joke segments. This helped their customers still be involved from home. Another way customers could still be involved from home was by having “to-go” food when the building couldn’t open due to restrictions. The Midway did this for about four months, until restrictions started to loosen. Midway customer, Madison Barlow, eighth grader said, “When many things were shut down, I ordered to-go from Midway. The service was very convenient and quick.” Mrs. Kraus said, “After a while, we were able to open at limited capacity. It took about 18 months for us to completely get back to full capacity and be a restaurant/bar again.” They grew from this situation. “The staff grew closer together. They learned that people wanted to help and support. Our business grew because the community saw how hard we were trying and struggling during the shutdown,” said Mrs. Kraus.  

Fort Thomas Coffee, formerly known as Fort Thomas Coffee House, was founded in 2012 by the Valentine family. In 2019, new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Justin and Christine Smalley, took over the establishment. Their business had to make many adjustments as well during the pandemic, and everything was still new for the Smalleys. Like many other businesses, they were at 0% capacity at worst, being shut down temporarily. As guidelines changed, they started to do carryout and then limited seating. Lots of extra sanitizing, temperature checks, and single use products were used to protect their customers during these hard times. Mrs. Smalley said, “Allowable seating capacity varied from 0% to 33% to 50% down to 25% and back to 50% in the span of 6 months.  Eventually, in 2021, we were back to 100% capacity and the masking and gloving requirements were removed.” Things slowly started to change back for this small business eventually. This pandemic and hardships brought the people of this establishment closer together, embracing the community. Mrs. Smalley said, “But actually, each new government recommendation was an opportunity to dig deeper, look higher, think broader on how we could continue to love people, serve well, and support community no matter the boundaries given.” Going along with this statement, Fort Thomas Coffee was very creative in finding ways to keep revenue coming in. Online ordering became much more popular by far. People could reserve spots to come in to drink coffee and have a “study hall,” and finally, a thing called the FT Coffee Bus was created. Mrs. Smalley said, “With the help of a student intern, we created a program called FTC Coffee Bus to deliver individual drink orders to all 7 local schools using a separate teacher online ordering website.” Mrs. Stephanie Ewald, math teacher, said, “I order from the FTC Coffee Bus every single Thursday at school.” This idea was something new to the community and something enjoyable for teachers, which also kept FT Coffee successful and stable throughout these times.  

Monera Chic Boutique was opened by founders and owners Mrs. Monica Bruns-Howard and Mrs. Tera Huddleston in May of 2014. They sell clothes, jewelry, and gifts for any occasion. For their business, they made some adjustments during the virus that ended up sticking with them because of the success that came from it. From only being open four days a week to Facebook lives once a week, these creative ideas helped Monera thrive. Mrs. Howard said, “Originally we closed down because of the state mandate. Then, less days of the week and mask requirements were applied for the first year. Lots of sanitation all around the store and limited customers were important to us too.” The live videos were one of the many things the business did to stay afloat. Before the pandemic, the owners had been doing these, but not nearly as often. At first, the videos were streamed twice a month. Eventually, this changed to videos three times a week! On these lives they would model their new clothes and jewelry that was in stock, so customers would order things for delivery or pick up. Monera eventually opened back up in July of 2020 after the shutdown, and their ideas in the shutdown tremendously grew their business. Mrs. Howard said, “The live shows helped our business almost double.” They continued to do these after things were as close to normal as possible. These ideas were just toned done or limited to a certain point. Mrs. Howard said, “We went from the lives three times a week to once a week, and our business continued to not open on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.” 

Although many businesses were temporarily shut down in this pandemic, things changed for the better for some. New, creative ideas, and hard work kept these establishments thriving! Ordering online and picking things up was extremely helpful to all people in the community.