Small businesses across the country are being negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak and Hart County is no different.
At G’s Southern Traditions, a retail store that sells clothing, gifts and accessories and does custom embroidery, owner Gina Temple said she has seen less shoppers in the store since the pandemic and emergency declarations were made.
“Foot traffic has slowed down quite a bit,” Temple said. “I think people are heeding the advice, sheltering in and staying home.”
Embroideries are keeping them busy for now, but Temple expects that to slow down as well. The store, like many other businesses, has had to cut staff some, but luckily it was to people who were caring for elderly and a baby, Temple said.
The Flower Cottage, also in downtown Hartwell, relies on making flower arrangements for weddings, funerals and birthdays, but with large gatherings being restricted, prom and weddings are being postponed or downsized and funerals are being done with only immediate family.
“It’s going to be tough,” Flower Cottage owner Brenda Vickery said. “It’s just been really slow. We make our living off of funeral work, weddings, birthdays and stuff like that.”
With schools closed and prom canceled, the orders for flowers for prom were also canceled. Thankfully, the flowers had not been ordered yet.
“We have to get that stuff in ahead of time,” Vickery said. “We don’t just get that stuff the day before. We have to order a couple weeks ahead.”
Guidance from The Hart County Chamber of Commerce and other organizations statewide and nationally is encouraging consumers and business owners to think outside the box to keep their businesses afloat.
The guidelines suggest businesses consider client accessibility, altering or expanding services temporarily to meet customer needs and going virtual. Businesses can use online services and the telephone to continue selling their goods and services without having to make direct contact with other people. The chamber says it is here to help businesses in their efforts to adapt.
Temple is already offering those options. G’s Southern Tradition has an online store with shipping and Temple says she can still do embroideries with no contact.
“If people are afraid to come in, I can take payment over the phone and I can just leave it out here,” Temple said. “I have two benches in my alcove and I can just leave it out there if people are afraid to come into contact with someone.”
The Flower Cottage is still open and is also able to do business without contact.
“We don’t need people to forget about us. We’re still here and we don’t have to make contact with people,” Vickery said. “We can do it by phone and have it delivered to the house. Saturday, I had a sweet, little lady call. They were having an anniversary and were supposed to be a having a small little party, but they decided to cancel it. She wanted flowers and balloons, so they took them to her and put the flowers in the driveway.”
As businesses try to adjust to the changes, long term plans are still up in the air. With uncertainty of how long the social distancing will go on or if stay-at-home orders get stricter, businesses are only preparing for a couple weeks ahead of time.
“If it continues with nothing going on, we’ll just have to shut the doors,” Vickery said. “One of our wholesalers with our fresh flowers is going to shut down the rest of this week and next week and they’re going to play it by ear. We won’t be able to get as many fresh flowers as we’ve been getting.
G’s Southern Traditions is located at 36 North Forest Avenue and The Flower Cottage is at 32 E Johnson Street, both in downtown Hartwell.
Small businesses impacted by the pandemic can apply for assistance with the U.S. Small Business Administration by going online to https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/EIDLLoans.