Businesses take it day by day

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In a time rife with uncertainty, few Monroe County residents feel that right now more than business owners.

“I think everybody’s just taking it day by day,” Waterloo Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Candace Gardner said. 

Different types of businesses are handling restrictions put in place to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in various ways.  

With Gov. JB Pritzker’s shelter in place order, many stores like boutiques and florists are closed or only offering online shopping. 

“That’s obviously devastating for them and for our community,” Historic Main Street Columbia Association Executive Director Andrea Yochum said. 

As those shops are closed, Gardner and Yochum said they are offering discounts, free shipping and promoting gift card sales in an effort to stay afloat.

Although they can still provide carry-out or delivery services, restaurants and bars are still facing difficulties. 

“They are seeing a pretty steep decline in sales,” Yochum reported. 

But the community is working to support those establishments. 

Gardner said in talking to individuals in the business community and going to pick up food herself that “quite a few people” are still utilizing restaurants in Waterloo. 

“I think people are trying to help, but of course we need to continue supporting small businesses, and not just restaurants but the retail shops and other businesses,” Gardner said.

Yochum echoed that sentiment, noting people can also support businesses if they cannot do so financially by encouraging their owners, sharing their social media posts or leaving reviews online. 

Even some essential businesses are still seeing a decline or – in the case of retailers such as grocery stores – a significant uptick, Gardner and Yochum said. 

Gardner said Schneider’s Quality Meats in Waterloo had to close for a day to restock due to its increase in business.

“The consumers, (owner Mark Lengacher) said, have just been wonderful,” Gardner relayed. “They’ve been polite and kind.” 

Gardner also said businesses considered essential by the governor’s order are taking extra precautions. 

“They’re doing everything possible to stay open and protect their employees and their customers at the same time,” she said. 

As businesses across the country and state have dealt with similar issues, Pritzker’s administration has declared a statewide Economic Injury Declaration with the United States Small Business Association.

For its part, the SBA is offering coronavirus assistance loans to help companies cope with this instability.

Even with the uncertainty here, however, Gardner and Yochum said they are unaware of any business applying for those funds, though that could change the longer this situation continues. 

Both women encouraged individuals to support businesses in any way they can, including following business organizations on social media to stay informed about specials, to help their friends and neighbors weather this storm.

Gardner and Yochum said Monroe County has already done that in a big way.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot fear,” Gardner said. “But I think this community is built on strength, and I think this community pulls together.” 

“People are pulling out all the stops to support (businesses) in any way that they can,” Yochum agreed. “As far as the overall picture is concerned, I think it looks as good as it possibly can right now. It will be interesting to see how the next couple of weeks.” 

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