How Businesses Are Adapting to The COVID-19 Pandemic

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It’s been nearly four weeks since Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a statewide stay-at-home order because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With two more weeks and a possible extension ahead, Naperville businesses are feeling the strain.

How The Order is Affecting Businesses

Restaurants and bars were ordered to shut down dine-in services, but can still offer drive-thru and curbside pick-up. But since these businesses rely heavily on foot traffic, there have been consequences.

At the Lucky Penny Diner and Deli, tucked away alongside Ogden Avenue, store and staff hours have been reduced. Penny Gournaris, the restaurant’s managing partner, has had to pay her employees’ payroll out of her own savings.

“I covered, since this all started, I’ve personally covered their payroll out of my savings. So now it becomes kind of scary. Now we’re at the point, you know, a month in and now I’m nervous,” said Gournaris.

Retail Industry

Naperville’s downtown retail businesses, which also rely on foot traffic, were having a productive year before the pandemic.

“With the milder winter, we were having the stores were doing quite well,” said Katie Wood, the Executive Director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance. “Some of the retailers are still doing curbside pick-up, but it’s really affected them. Their businesses have effectively shut during this period of social distancing during the shelter-at-home order.”

Barber Shops and Salons

Service businesses, like barbershops and salons, are some that have been impacted the most.

Mike Densford, a barber at Lee’s Barber Shop, has had to take actions he never thought he would.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and never had to ask for help, never had to worry about my mortgage, [or] my rent. Before this Zoom interview started I was setting up a GoFundMe. I never in my life I would’ve thought that,” said Densford.

Terri Hayes, owner of Artistic Creations Salon, admits she was scared of the possible effects of COVID-19 on her business.

“The unknown of this in the beginning was pretty damn scary,” said Hayes. “I had to have a little self conversation with myself in my car [saying] ‘put your big girl pants on and figure this out’”.

And that’s just what Hayes and other business owners have done.

How Businesses Are Adapting to The COVID-19 Pandemic

At Lucky Penny, they’ve shifted from diner and deli to a marketplace, where you can get toilet paper as a side with your Cuban sandwich.

“We went in to our storage rooms, broke down racks, brought racks in, and just started going through what we thought we could sell,” said Gournaris. “And the idea was, what can’t you get at a market? What are they gouging you on?”

Customers can pull up and get their orders delivered curbside. Wood said Downtown Naperville retail businesses are also offering creative curbside pickups.

Pinot’s Palette is a great example. That’s an art and paint studio,” said Wood. “The owner there, Pam, what she has done is created take-home kits. So people can go pick up curbside these put-together kits and then they can follow along and paint and she’s also created virtual classes.”

A full list of downtown Naperville businesses still operating can be found on the Alliance’s website.

Barbershops and salons are asking people to keep their long hair until they open back up.

“Wait for us,” said Densford. “We’ll need you guys, just as much as you need us.”

In the meantime, Lee’s Barber Shop has set up a fundraiser where community members can support their barbers.

Artistic Creations is selling “T-zone Kits”, self-hair dye packages for their customers.

“How many weeks are we now? Four weeks? For a lot of people, including myself, as you can see, that’s a long time to go without color,” said Hayes.

And like most local businesses, they are asking the community to support them by purchasing gift cards.

Though the effects of COVID-19 have been scary and impactful, these businesses and others are doing their best to adapt to stay afloat until the pandemic subsides.”

For Naperville News 17, I’m Christian Canizal