THE NEW NORMAL
In a COVID-19 coronavirus world
CLOSING UP SHOP IN A SMALL TOWN
Urban and rural, fortune 500 companies and mom- and-pop shops – COVID-19 is affecting every business in the world.
Madison County business owners are having to make decisions based on conditions that change every day. Those unable to adjust with the uncertainty are closing their doors. Some are considering bankruptcy.
Ann Goldthwait closes on her shop in Sheridan, Kindred Spirts, March 31. She planned a gambling sale to liquidate the merchandise that still climbed the shop’s walls and covered shelves. The sale abruptly ended March 11. Goldthwait does not have an online store, like many of Madison County’s gift shops.
“I didn’t feel like I should be open,” Goldthwait said. “I didn’t want to encourage others to shop during this.”
SHOPS IN A SMALL TOWN
Tammy Haas, owner of My Home in Montana, is comfortable keeping her doors open for now because of the low volume of customers.
“I’m trying to stay open to have some normality in my life,” Haas said.
Her store on Ennis’ Main Street is stocked for the summer traffic that is needed to keep her business open. Haas said about $5,000 in orders from her store have been canceled. An emergency loan from the Small Business Association is not an appealing option for Haas. Seven years of business finally started to pay off, and Haas would rather not repeat the debt cycle.
“If this goes into July- August, I’m dead,” Haas said.
Another Ennis Main Street store, Benjies, locked its doors March 19. Owners Jim and Benjie Engebreston are at a high risk of developing a severe case of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“I’d rather live than sell a pair of earrings,” Benjie said.
The couple had different initial reactions to the early stages of the virus spreading in the United States. Like many, Benjie could not imagine the level of disruption the coronavirus is causing. They were cooperative with social distancing and other precautions, but some customers were not.
“Benjies is not essential,” Benjie said. “The world can get on just fine without Benjies.”
BUSINESSES ADJUSTING TO THE TIMES
Madison County’s service industry is adjusting to accommodate closed dining and tasting rooms amid the COVID-19 coronavirus. Governor Steve Bullock ordered the closures March 20.
Most food and beverage jobs have been cut indefinitely.
Bars and restaurants are operating solely on take out orders or have shut down. But people are not ordering restaurant-made food at the same rate as they were pre- COVID-19.
Take-out only was not a viable option for McAllister Steakhouse. Employees relieved the steakhouse of its perishables and most applied for unemployment. Many of Madison County’s bars and restaurants plan to stay afloat with take-out services and creative changes.
The Shovel and Spoon cut its hours but is operating with all five of its employees. The Sheridan catering service and restaurant is offering frozen dinners and to-go orders from its window.
“We’re having to do a little more packaging, which we will have to adjust to,” Shovel and Spoon owner Janet Marsh said. “But we’re excited about not having any dishes to clean during this time.”
Willie’s Distillery closed its tasting room and opened a walk-up bottle service at its location on Ennis’ Main Street.
“It’s a way to keep some of our employees employed,” Willie’s Distillery owner Willie Blazer said.
Sales are below normal, but the distillery will soon shift its manufacturing to hand sanitizer. They are currently purchasing ingredients and supplies for its new use of alcohol. According to Blazer, he had to order glycerin from eight different suppliers across the United States. “As soon as we get all the ingredients, we can make it in a day,” Blazer said. “We’ll supply our county first and see where it goes.”
Willie’s Distillery is working with the State of Montana, other state agencies, Madison County Public Health Department and area healthcare providers. The distillery was waved through the usual 6-month process, but it will take some time for the ingredients to arrive and to ensure federal guidelines are followed.