Local essential businesses feeling virus pressures

Throughout the country, small businesses that have been deemed essential are keeping their doors open to serve the public during the coronavirus pandemic. For many, though, sales have taken a substantial hit as people are being encouraged to stay home and shop as sparingly as possible.

One such business is Mattress Factory Outlet at 1625 Lamar Ave.

“We’ve definitely taken a hit and seen a big decrease,” store owner Ken Brown said.

So far this month, the store is down 50% from where its sales were at this point last month. And in March, Brown said, the store’s sales were down 20% from the month before that.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the store as safe and clean as possible,” Brown said. “We’re constantly wiping and scrubbing everything down, we’re doing no-contact buying and all of our employees are wearing masks. We’re also limiting it to 10 people in the building at a time, though that hasn’t been a problem recently.”

Despite the tough times, though, Brown said the store hasn’t limited its hours or days of operation.

“It’s forcing us to get creative, but we’re working as hard as we can to stay on top of things,” he said.

Other businesses, while still feeling an impact, haven’t been hit quite as hard. At Swaim Hardware, 240 1st St. SW, good sales days balance out the poor ones, store manager Dennis Porterfield said.

“It’s hard to say how much we’ve been impacted,” he said. “Some days, hardly anyone comes in. But then other days it’s more normal and we have pretty good sales, so I think it balances out in the end.”

Porterfield attributed this in part to people stuck at their house getting around to home improvement projects.

“A lot of people are deciding to use this time home and quarantining to get around to projects,” he said.

Stress on local businesses is far from a unique issue to Lamar County. Nationwide, a survey of members of the National Small Business Association found that more than 75% of small business owners are very concerned about the economic impact the pandemic will have, Forbes recently reported.

“These are tough times and people are having to make sacrifices, but don’t forget that hometown, local businesses are the lifeblood of the community,” Brown said.

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