Small businesses in Cedar City strive to serve community during COVID-19 crisis

CEDAR CITY —  As precautionary measures intended to help stop the spread of COVID-19 continue to be put in place throughout the state, small business owners in Cedar City are still doing what they can to provide for the community.

Main Street, downtown Cedar City, Utah, June 10, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, Cedar City News / St. George News

Ty Vinney of Octopus Apothecary told Cedar City News he has not seen a change in sales.

“It’s not slowing things down,” Vinney said. “We’re being extra cautious; we are disinfecting everything every time people come in; we’re only allowing five people at a time.”

Octopus Apothecary has remained open so far, but Vinney said he plans to make any adjustments that become necessary.

“We might take some time off here in a little bit just to ease people’s minds a little bit, but people also like having the ability to go back to something normal,” he said. “They can come in here and there’s not that panic, they know that we’re being responsible with our health as well as theirs.”

Vinney added that although he is concerned about the affects of the precautionary measures, he feels his business will pull through.

“It’s going to concern any small business person,” he said. “It’s our livelihood and it’s a lot of people are losing their jobs, which is a concern because that’s our customer base, that’s our friends, that’s our family members – so it’s going to affect us. Hopefully everybody gets their jobs back and our economy will bounce back and we’ll do well.”

Lori Hanna, an owner of Perks! Coffee, Espresso and Smoothies, told Cedar City News only one location, in Springdale, has been closed due to campgrounds in Zion National Park campgrounds closing and concern from employees. Hanna said her priority is doing what’s best for employees and the community.

“I, as a business and certainly as a person, would not want to be responsible for inflicting someone who had a compromised immune system that would not do well with this disease,” she said. “Better to err on the side of caution, I think. I want to be smart, I also want to survive and trying to find the balance in between that is where we are.”

Hanna said she and her husband took out a loan in order to help employees get by, and she is working not to spread fear about the virus.

“We’ve got strong community support and I feel like if we can get through, back to normal, whenever that new normal happens and whatever it is, I have no reason to suspect we (won’t) be just fine,” she said. “We’re just going to ride the tide, keep everyone calm and assure our staff and our community that we are doing everything that we’re mandated and beyond that to keep everybody safe and still be able to enjoy a great cup of coffee.”

She added that she believes the community will remain strong through difficult times.

“I strongly believe, and have already seen so much positivity from our staff from our guests and really the community at large, that we’re just going to be there for each other, love each other through it and try to fill in the needs wherever they are,” Hanna said.

Main Street Books owner Heather Stein said her landlord will be a key factor in her business moving forward.

“One massive thing that will help us get through these strange times is the understanding and thoughtfulness of our landlords,” Stein said. “They are big piece of the community-working-together puzzle.”

Stein has asked that her employees stay home, but wants to continue providing books for community members by offering free books and delivery.

“People don’t even have to come in if they’re not comfortable or if we’re not open. They still have access to some books,” she said. “If we’ve got it in stock, we’ll drive it and drop it off to their door, or if we don’t we can have it shipped right to their door from the distributor. I’m just doing whatever I can to keep books in people’s hands and try to keep them aware that there are options outside of Amazon.”

Stein said she is concerned that precautionary measures will encourage a habit of not visiting the downtown area, and things change on a day-to-day basis.

“I don’t know what that looks like moving forward for the businesses, for our employees,” Stein said. “It’s really confusing. But I think if we can get up and running in another couple of weeks we can recover from this fairly quickly.”

Locals make artisan cheese sold at Red Acre Farm, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 9, 2017 | Photo by and courtesy of Jim Lillywhite, St. George News

Symbria Patterson of Red Acre Farm said the farm’s products are sold directly to consumers, and traffic has increased due to shortages at grocery stores.

“People are coming to us because they do feel safer. They don’t have to deal with a grocery store, they’re self-isolating or they’re really practicing physical distance from other people so this gives them an opportunity to feel safer,” she said. “I’d say that’s what’s changed the most for us – we’re way busier.”

Patterson added that producing foods to be sold directly to the consumer only involves one person handling products.

“One person has touched your produce on our farm,” she said. “It’s a much safer product because its not being passed through different places and across borders.”

The farm has transitioned into only accepting customers one at a time, and Patterson said the recent purchasing patterns of consumers is leading to grocery stores running out of products.

“The thing is, there isn’t a food shortage – we’ve done this to ourselves because people are panicking and they’re scared,” she said. “The soil isn’t contaminated, the sun is shining, we haven’t had a global draught. There’s plenty of food, it’s just the way that they’re purchasing it has made the supply chain interrupted.”

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