COVID-19 puts economic, personal stress on small businesses

The+Children%27s+Dentistry+of+Amarillo+is+closed+until+further+notice.

Courtesy of Andrea Meyer

The Children's Dentistry of Amarillo is closed until further notice.

Streets, normally bustling and lively, are empty. Shops on every corner have their lights off and doors locked tight. Small businesses everywhere close as coronavirus spreads.

Following the Shelter-in-Place issued by Canyon Mayor Gary Hinders on March 30 and Greg Abbott’s social distancing orders, small non-essential businesses around the area have closed to prevent further spread of coronavirus. For many business owners, this has caused both a financial and personal strain.

“COVID-19 has made us switch our business model to be able to do more online sales,” owner of Creek House Honey Farm Paige Nester said. “We are definitely doing more advertising and running specials to get people to shop. Tourism was also a huge part of our revenue and that part has definitely come to a halt. We usually do Beehive Tours in the summer and are hoping that those can continue.”

Our doors and terminals are sanitized each time a customer enters.”

— Paige Nester, beekeeper

The Creek House Honey Farm, which was established in 2011, carries a variety of bee based skincare products made from real, raw honey. Previously, the store operations were run from the shop behind Nester’s home, but in 2018, the storefront was built and opened to the public. However, some aspects of the business have now changed.

“We are only allowing ten people or less to enter the store at all times,” Nester said. “Our doors and terminals are sanitized each time a customer enters. Our employees are following all of the health guidelines. We came up with a new hand sanitizer that will stay in stock year round. It’s very moisturizing and is great for your skin, but is anti-everything.”

The Creek House Honey Farm is also offering curbside deliveries. Nester said the most difficult part about owning a business during this time is the unknown.

“We depend on people ordering from us online or in person at the store,” Nester said. “Our business has 15 employees that depend on us for a paycheck. It’s definitely a scary time for us and fear can easily take over. We are trying to stay positive through it all.”

Basically, for about five weeks now we have been to a complete standstill.”

— Billy Metcalf, pediatric dentist

Billy Metcalf, a pediatric dentist and owner of Children’s Dentistry of Amarillo, sees patients aging from infant to college level. The Children’s Dentistry of Amarillo normally offers regular check-ups, oral sedated treatment, and braces appointments. However, the dentistry can currently only perform emergency treatments.

“Basically, for about five weeks now we have been to a complete standstill,” Metcalf said. “Any small business owner is faced with an extreme crisis with being able to keep up with their employees and expenses. We’re at a time in our history where no one knows how this is going to change our world, not just socially, but economically worldwide.”

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which offers $376 billion to small businesses recover from the economic disruption the coronavirus has caused.

“I’ve applied for some grants and loans from the federal government and the SBA to help me get through this time,” Metcalf said. “Seventy-five percent of that has to be spent in eight weeks on your employees and the other 25 percent can be used on mortgage, rent, utilities, retirement and health insurance.”

Metcalf said he does not expect his business to change after the virus dies down.

We ask the population when you have a choice, stay local.”

— Keith Flood, owner of Amarillo Escape and Mystery

“I think once this is over we will be back up and running,” Metcalf said. “I think the part that might change would be for those who have lost insurance, being able to afford to get back in and get treated.”

However, businesses in other industries may struggle to return to normalcy.

“I think it’s going to be six months or maybe even a year before I fully recover,” owner of Amarillo Escape and Mystery Keith Flood said. “We have to get people’s confidence back and overcome the stigma and fear. With entertainment venues in general, people are going to have to recover their disposable income. They don’t have extra cash to burn on activities or excess t-shirts or anything like that.”

Amarillo Escape and Mystery provides patrons with themed rooms to escape using puzzles and codes. The business also hosts mystery dinners, in which groups can dine and solve a mystery.

“I love the fact that people actually get to spend quality time together and people are developing family skills and team building skills,” Flood said. “People are interacting with each other. It’s more than being behind a movie screen and sending your money off to Hollywood; the money is kept local.”

Amarillo Escape and Mystery officially closed on March 19.

“From about the middle of February to the first of March we had seen probably a 60 percent or more decrease in our average bookings,” Flood said. “My employees were doing a wonderful job of keeping things clean and sanitized, but finally I realized I was spending as much money on cleaning supplies as I was ever making in profit with the bookings that I was getting.”

Flood said purchasing a gift certificate or t-shirts can help keep business alive during this time.

“We ask the population when you have a choice, stay local,” Flood said. “We’re the ones supporting the kids’ teams, and we’re going to be there for that cancer fundraiser. That’s what small business is about. But, all those years that you all asked for support and donations, it’s coming our turn to call in our favor. We helped you; we could use your help in return.”