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Local businesses reflect on Covid’s shifting landscape

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 8:23 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - This coming weekend marks the second Small Business Saturday we’ve had during the Covid pandemic.

WTAP spoke to two local shops about how Covid’s shaped their stores.

Everyone, from luxury jewelers to country stores, felt the first punch of the pandemic in 2020.

Larry Hall, co-owner of Baker & Baker Jewelers Inc., said the hardest part was the uncertainty.

“Last year was way different. It was the fear of the unknown because no one knew what was going on.”

Jeff Salmans, co-owner of Mulberry Lane Country Store, said, “The electric company still bills you no matter if your door were open or not so it was a challenge keeping the door - keeping the income coming in so you could pay those people who still had to be paid.”

Baker & Baker was forced to close its physical doors for about 90 days and, for Mulberry Lane, it was six weeks.

Still, that doesn’t mean they were on vacation.

Hall remembered, “I delivered all over the valley. I’d come to the people’s address, I would text them, I would put it in their mailbox, then I would leave.”

The internet became the new storefront. While Hall drove around the valley, Salmans took up Facebook Live. Apparently, it’s been quite the hit.

He said, “People love it. You know, it’s QVC on steroids.”

It’s something Mulberry Lane’s kept going even since its doors re-opened.

Hall sees a bigger emphasis on the online world lasting in the post-pandemic world, at least for cheaper purchases at his shop. For the mean time, he says it can only get better. In fact, he described the rolling out of vaccines as “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

For both stores, the beginning of vaccinations marked a shift in business. Salmans said it’s when foot traffic started gradually coming back.

And, as always, the community remains important in the local business model.

Salmans said, “Hopefully, from the experience of Covid and everything, that our customers seem to want to be shopping more local.”

Hall said, “They’re coming back and they want to participate. That’s the great thing. They want to help the local economy, help the small stores and that is a heartwarming thing for us as a small business.”

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