Businesses finding ways to work through virus concerns
Published 3:42 pm Friday, March 20, 2020
There is an old adage that says when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the fallout of the virus is encompassing small business owners. Therefore, some in Vicksburg are thinking outside the box and are implementing new and different strategies to keep their livelihood afloat.
Sally Bullard, along with her husband Chris Fink, owns and operates Main Street Market Café, which is located at 902 Cherry St.
Bullard refers to their restaurant as a “mom and pop establishment,” and in an effort to stay in business, the couple is now offering take out services to customers.
“We are trying to accommodate as best we can and just trying to think of whatever to keep the lights turned on,” Bullard said. “I just think everybody is just trying to do what they can do.”
Daniel Boone, owner of the Highway 61 Coffeehouse, at 1101 Washington St., has changed the way his store serves coffee.
“As of Wednesday, we have a new take away window,” Boone said. “I’m jokingly saying I am changing the name to Highway 61 coffee portal because we have coffee-to-go only.”
Boone said the door to the coffeehouse has a window in it with a counter from which they serve.
“Customers are not coming in,” Boone said. “And we have had to change our model from being a place where people gather to a place where people can get their coffee.”
Like Bullard, Lorelei Books owner Kelle Barfield is trying to accommodate customers with deliveries or curb service.
“Although we haven’t broadly advertised it, we have regularly offered delivery service to certain older customers, who don’t drive or want a book and can’t get it,” Barfield said. For now Barfield said she will continue this service to anyone in the Warren County area. “If someone calls the bookstore and requests a book, we will be happy to bring it to them.”
Curbside service is also available.
“If somebody wants to get a book, call and see if we have it or see if we can get it, just call and pull up for curbside delivery and they don’t have to get out of the car,” Barfield said.
Barfield said this practice has been available before, but now the coronavirus outbreak has brought awareness to some of the courtesies extended to customers that have difficulty coming inside.
In addition to the services offered at Lorelei Books, Barfield said, they have “grab and go” reading, which is books free of charge. They are located in front of the store in a cart.
Lorelei also has a number of workbooks available for children that prevent learning loss while schools are closed due to the virus threat as well as books geared toward activities related to science and nature.
While the Highway 61 Coffeehouse has closed its doors to the public, as of today, Lorelei Books and Main Street Café’s doors are open.
“At the moment we are still open for dining in, but this is a fluid situation,” Bullard said. “We are just day-by-day trying to make the smartest decisions for my staff and for folks in the community.”
Barfield said they are not closing for now.
“It’s beautiful weather, so we are propping the door open so people don’t have to use the doorknob,” Barfield said.
From her assessments, Barfield said there have been no more than two people in the bookstore at one time.
Barfield said she would reevaluate the situation if everything closes in downtown.
Boone admits this new normal of social distancing is challenging for the coffeehouse.
“It’s painful because we have thought of our place as exactly that, a place for people to work, to gather and spend time and now we are chatting with them through the window,” he said.
The transition has also been worrisome for Bullard, but she said she is grateful for customers who are continuing to support the Café.
“Teachers are getting paid. Government workers are getting paid, and they are getting paid sitting at home, but they are still coming in and ordering to-go orders because they know we are not getting paid,” she said.
Bullard said she has had many of her customers reach out to her asking what they could do to help.
“Just keep ordering food,” she said.