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Enquirer photo/Rachel Howard Angela Smith looks over this week’s schedule at Bentley’s at the Outhouse in the nearly empty dining area. Local businesses are relying on to-go orders and curbside pickup during the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 affects local restaurants, small businesses

Locally-owned small businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy, according to Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce director Missy Evans.  

With people being encouraged to practice social distancing, Evans said Hartselle’s businesses could be at risk for the most loss.  

People are really committed to buying local, and that’s important now more than ever,” she said.  

Social distancing and the concern around keeping everyone healthy is causing business owners to get creative in how they offer their products and services to the public, she added.  

Small businesses are essential to Hartselle in more ways than one. Our local businesses employ our local people and are driving traffic to our community and enhancing our community,” she said.   

Janan Downs, owner of Zoey’s Downtown, said she and her staff are taking precautions to keep everyone healthy in light of the virus.  

We started sanitizing at the beginning of flu season – just like every year. We do this for the health of our customers and staff,” she said. “Our customers are welcome to phone in, and we will pull their items. Our staff can take payment by phone and run the items out to them (wrapped if need be).” 

Downs said her business has several bridal registries this month, and she encouraged her patrons to take advantage of curbside pickup and phone payments while practicing social distancing. Zoey’s Downtown has wonderful customers, and we are here to help them with their shopping needs,” she added.  

Angela Smith, who owns Bentley’s at the Outhouse with her husband, said she could tell a definite difference March 17 – the business’ first day open since a case of coronavirus was confirmed in Alabama.  

“It’s a weird time, and people keep asking what we’re going to do,” she said. “I keep saying we’re plugging along, and it’s a day-by-day situation. We’re doing the best we can for as long as we can.”  

She added Bentley’s has seen an increase in customers placing to-go orders, and she’s offering customers curbside assistance and working on the logistics of a delivery program.  

Holy Smoke BBQ is one restaurant that prepared early for the shutdown of dining areas at all restaurants. A statewide prohibition on on-premise consumption of food and drink is in effect through April 5.   

Brad Hyatt, one of the owners of Holy Smoke BBQ, said his business is relying heavily on the drivethru until things calm down. “You can call ahead, and we can have it ready for you when you get here,” he said. “We haven’t been allowing any food consumption inside since this started.”  

Hyatt said every employee is required to wear gloves and sanitize their hands after each transaction. “We’re just adding extra precautions where we can.” 

Not only will restaurants and boutiques be affected, Evans said Hartselle’s larger industries are also at risk. “This could affect even Cerrowire and Sonoco and their employees that they’re counting on to be there,” she said. “It’s impacting these industries and their ability to make a product that will stock shelves at Lowe’s and Home Depot.”  

Kassi Hill, who works as the events coordinator at the HACC, added she believes the upside of this pandemic happening now instead of 20 years ago is the benefit of technology.  

“We can operate virtually,” she said. “If people follow the proper guidelines – go to work and go home – we’ll still be able to work and will still be able to support local businessesIf businesses owners will utilize Facebook and other forms of social media and have sales that way … then we will still buy because we’re still able to work. 

They’re just going to have to do it a different way until things settle down.”  

“There are a lot of resources out there for people to use now,” Evans agreed. Being good neighbors and looking for ways to (benefit the community) in order to keep Hartselle strong is one way to help out. We also need to have the expectation that things will calm down eventually – because they will.”