Because of the COVID-19 quarantine that has been in place, many local businesses have had to shut down their storefronts temporarily. After two months of restrictions—even with the governor easing some of these requirements—many business owners are finding it necessary to get creative by finding ways to bring in revenue so their temporary closure doesn’t become permanent.
Danny Barbour, owner of the Village Barber Shop in Altavista, refuses to let the lockdown put an end to his business. As owner of a business that has been a town institution for over 100 years, Barbour says, “the town is not losing it while it is under my name.” He took his business on the road after the governor mandated salons and barber shops to close. Taking appropriate steps to be state compliant, he says he “went to the shop, loaded my car, posted about it on Facebook, and went mobile.”
Barbour maintains, “customer service is priority one,” and while he has “enjoyed meeting awesome people on the road,” he is glad to be able to reopen. He said while offering mobile service allowed him to maintain his business, revenue was “nowhere near as much as when the shop was actually open.”
Justin Campbell, owner of Vista Fitness, says quarantine restrictions “have definitely affected us in a negative way.” For the last two months, they have not been allowed to operate and have not had their regular income since March 5. Campbell says they have received a little help through Altavista on Track, the government, and members volunteering to continue paying their monthly draft, but they are operating at a major deficit, and “if something doesn’t happen by the end of June, we could go under.”
Vista Fitness is accepting donations and fundraising through T-shirt sales. They have taken this time to qualify as a Silver Sneakers location, a program where many health insurance companies will cover gym or fitness membership dues for senior citizens. Campbell states, “we have had a lot of people ask if we were a designated Silver Sneakers site, and after taking all the appropriate steps, we will be once we can reopen.”
While waiting for business to open back to full capacity, the Vista fitness owners have been doing free or low-cost upgrades to the center, like new locker room flooring. Campbell says when they do projects, they try to support local businesses and shop in town for supplies. He believes that it’s in everyone’s interest to support the local economy.
Local photographer Roger Blackstock says he “can’t imagine too many businesses in town not being affected.” He was able to remain open with reduced hours due to being a UPS Authorized Shipping Outlet. “I felt I needed to be open for that for local shipping needs,” he explained. Blackstock is also doing a little photography but taking extra precautions.
At Dojo of the 3 Rings, owner Heidi Inman has also been feeling the loss of her students during the shutdown. “We are grateful for everyone’s support during this time, and we miss our students—and especially the hugs. We are working on a plan to start training in the next week.” Inman is looking to start with outdoor classes where they can continue keeping to safety and social distancing guidelines.
As a new business in town, Sweet Spot Southern Bakery owner Tauwana Dickerson says she really doesn’t have a gauge to see if business has been affected by the shutdown. As a bakery, she has been able to offer carry-out services, and she has also been providing curbside services.
Whether new to town or long-established, all local business owners seem to agree that they are anxious for the danger to pass and to be able to get back to business. Not only are some struggling to stay afloat, but many are missing their customers, clients and students and are ready to get back to business as usual.