As local businesses are still adjusting to the current state that COVID-19 has left them in, business owners have experienced a great deal of change within their organizations. After almost seven months of continuing business during the pandemic, retailers have noticed the toll that the pandemic has taken on their businesses, but are inspired by their community.
“I’ve seen a lot of our downtown retailers really behaving more like a community. We look out for each other, we support each other. The pandemic has been terrible, but it has brought out a lot of good in people as well,” said The Book Teller owner Karen McCulloch.
Located in downtown Whitewater, The Book Teller is a local community-focused bookstore that also acts as a space for local artists to sell their unique crafts.
“We’re down at least by half of the people walking through and we’re down at least half in sales and revenue. We’ve been affected in a very significant way,” said McCulloch.
Other local businesses in the area have also experienced similar changes such as Dale’s Bootery. The shop specializes in shoe sales and has had a noticeable difference in customer traffic during the pandemic, according to owner Bob Herold.
“Sales have definitely decreased. Our foot traffic is certainly down. We don’t have the casual shopper that we once did. Everyone comes in with a purpose. They are coming in because they know what they want and they just need the supervision to help to get the right fit,” said Herold.
In an effort to encourage compliance with the COVID-19 conduct mandated in stores, many businesses have altered their spaces to encourage six foot social distancing, the wearing of facial coverings and the use of hand sanitizer in the stores.
“Once we were able to reopen we instituted extra sanitation, reduced seating to keep customers separated, added protective barriers for our employees at the cash register and we are requiring masks for those that can wear them,” said Herold.
Despite a hiccup in some local business traffic, owners reflect on the positive aspects that have come from the pandemic. Through the lack of customers and sales during this time, business owners have noticed and appreciated the loyalty and support that they receive from the community. Owners still have hope in the community and its members to continue shopping locally, supporting businesses closer to home.
“Local businesses are the ones supporting your local community. You don’t get the personal touch with online shopping that you do with local businesses,” said Herold. “You see local businesses everyday and they’re there for you when you need them and as of right now, we need our local community.”