Business Not As Usual
Hear from local businesses on how they are navigating the global pandemic and find out what you can do to help.
When we first planned a story on Aberdeen’s economy back in November, like all of you, we had no idea how much COVID-19 would devastate business as we know it. Even writing this story in May feels shaky because, by the time you read it in July, things could be drastically different than they are right now. It is my hope that they are. It is my hope that things are entirely changed for the better.
You’ve followed the news and watched many of our businesses close, and then slowly reopen with a list of new protocols a mile long. You’ve seen debates at city council meetings and on social media about whether they should have closed, or reopened, at all. Whatever your stance, I’d like to peel away our differences and see how at our core we all are more alike than we realize. I’m betting most of us can agree on two things. 1) We want a safe and healthy Aberdeen, and 2) Our small business owners are absolute rockstars.
Can you imagine almost overnight having to tell your employees to go home because you must close your doors? Can you imagine trying to serve clients while also making sure everyone is wearing a mask and continuously cleaning every surface? When I pick up my groceries, safe in my vehicle, I want to throw my arms around my personal shopper and hug them for days. I know that is overly emotional but watching them work with the public day after day reminds me that my staying at home routine is a privilege. Not everyone gets to do that in order for our community to remain afloat.
That’s why we put this article together with quotes directly from small business owners in Aberdeen, so you can hear from them what these past few months have really been like. Their stories of adapting to this “new normal” and showing up despite everything are amazing. Whenever you feel ready to go out and about again, remember to give your business owners grace. They are trying to navigate something that is completely scary and unexpected right alongside you. They are trying to help you, while also juggling a thousand new worries. Let’s show up at their doors with thankful hearts and give back to them the best we can.
Note: the following are quotes from businesses obtained on or before May 10, 2020.
Unravel: Aberdeen Escape Room
305 S. Main Street
Owner Jessica Fischer
“COVID-19 has completely changed our business. We closed our doors in early March, and as of May 10, have still not reopened our escape rooms. Our part-time employees are not working, and our revenue is not what it usually is this time of year. We often slow down a lot in the summer, so we rely on our winter/spring income to help us pay the bills through the summer months.
About a month after closing our doors and being so bored at home with my kids (there are only so many board games and Netflix shows you can watch!), I had the idea to create a scavenger hunt around town that could be done entirely from your vehicle. We partnered with 10 local businesses around town and used things in their storefronts/buildings as clues. The hunt went bonkers! We had over 200 families complete the hunt on the first weekend it was released, and we ended up releasing the second one in early May. I realized people were starved for entertainment and things they could do to get them outside of their houses!
The most valuable lesson I have taken away from this as a business owner is the power of collaboration. It’s been great to see other local businesses supporting each other. Something as simple as one business sharing another business’ post on their Facebook page could expose their audience to an entirely new market. When we share love, we do truly all benefit!”
Next-Generation Performance Center
3315 6th Ave. SE, Ste 64
Owner Jennifer Deutsch
“The fear of this virus had completely stopped all aspects of NGPC on March 15, 2020. We had no way of bringing in money, and many of my bills rely on monthly income. I had nothing for my staff to do after the first few days. NGPC is about creating a place for kids to learn and play. Once we were advised to close anything that involved people gathering, we simply had to shut our doors.
We provided a YouTube channel for the kids to follow mini-workouts if they wanted. I created leotard packages for curbside pickup that we sold on Facebook. We sold Easter eggs filled with gymnastics goodies, and I promoted the sale of gift certificates or open gym punch cards to buy now and use later. I personally did small gestures and mini-games to keep my families engaged and to let them know we missed them.
I never thought something would happen to halt everything so quickly! When something so rare like this happened, and no one had any protocols or guidance, it was truly scary not only as a member of the community but also as a business owner. Insurance companies didn’t cover this, banks and the SD Department of Labor were not prepared to handle so many requests at one time, the list can go on! So, the lesson learned here is that anything can happen at any time, and if it does, you simply have to adjust and move on. One day at a time. Don’t give up.
Preparing to reopen during this pandemic time has been a crazy emotional ride! Trying to make sure I’m doing everything right to make everyone safe once we start back up is very real stress that only business owners understand. Most of us business owners have always had cleaning and safety protocols in place, but this is going to be so much more. Some changes I’ve embraced and will probably keep in place forever, other changes are hard and may make my atmosphere feel quite different. All I can hope is that one day we will be back to normal and not have to live in fear. I pray one day my gym will be filled with many kids and families laughing and having fun again.
Danger Von Dempsey’s Pizzeria & Brewhaus
1023 S. Main St.
Owner Sean Dempsey
“With the start of the pandemic, we were forced to slash our normal operating hours down from a full 11-9 daily to a 4-8 on weekdays and 11-8 on weekends. We saw (even before the ordinance closed down business) that people were terrified to come in and be around other people. We saw an immediate decline of about 60% of our sales. We do a fair amount of takeout, but our bread and butter have always been our dining room crowd. We started this year with 23 employees, and we have been forced to be running with a skeleton crew of about 7.
We were forced to get more creative with the way we do business. We started doing take and bake pizzas almost immediately after they closed businesses as a way to try and create more revenue. We also (and my favorite) started selling DIY pizza kits, where for $7, you could buy a dough ball, sauce, cheese, toppings, dusting flour, and instructions on how to make a pizza at home. We got about 20 different photos of different kids (and adults) with the finished product. It’s always great to see people having a fun time in the middle of this. We also added curbside (we were lucky to already be partnered with Zapoya for delivery) and contactless delivery. We’ve also seen our online orders skyrocket. Most nights, we do more online orders than telephone orders!
Owning a business has lots of ups and downs, and everything around us is unpredictable. The lesson I’ve learned is how proud I am of having a business in Aberdeen. The Chamber of Commerce really stepped up with their gift card promotion. That was most timely, generous, and amazing. The community really, really stuck together to support local places. I just cannot stress how thankful we are to be in Aberdeen and to see what the future holds. Hopefully, fewer viruses and more pizzas.”
3315 6th Ave. SE, Ste 43
Owner Devin Marzolf
“We went from our busiest prom season to completely dead in a day. It had a significant impact on our sales, just like every other small business, we’re all suffering. We have a lot of summer products coming in and not a lot of shoppers. So, we hope to not have a lot of merchandise left at the end of the season. We are fortunate to have wonderful staff that we could still give limited hours to, but we hope to be back to normal soon!
We were able to remain open with limited hours, so we offered curbside pick-up, delivery, and shipping. We also attempted to post more on our social media platforms, but we’re not the best at that! We prefer one on one with our beautiful customers.
It is so important to support your local small businesses, not only at a time like this but all year round. It might be cheaper at Walmart, but you won’t get the same customer service as you would in a small business. I’ve also learned this community can be so supportive and understanding. We greatly appreciate all of our customers.”
Ken’s SuperFair Foods
2015 6th Ave. SE
Owner Kevin Fiedler
“COVID-19 has definitely impacted the way we do business with our Groceries To Go Program really increasing more than we ever imagined. We offer both pick-up and delivery options, with many customers taking advantage of these services to stay safe during this outbreak. We have added or moved a number of employees over to these areas to handle the increased orders.
We have seen the dedication of our hardworking employees, both in Aberdeen as well as the five satellite stores, who have really stepped up to do their best during a very challenging and stressful time in our business. We appreciate the loyalty and understanding of our customers who realize we are trying to keep our employees and customers safe and are doing our best to deal with the product shortages at this unprecedented time.”
Schriver’s Memorial Mortuary and Crematory
414 5th Ave. NW
Owner George Schriver
“This pandemic has been the most difficult not on us necessarily, but on the families we serve. With no more than 10 people being able to gather, many families are deciding to wait to host funeral services for their loved ones. Other families are holding services with immediate family members only present. And with churches not being open, we are hosting more services in our building than ever before. One of the hardest parts is that family members aren’t allowed into healthcare facilities, so when their loved ones pass away, they can’t be there with them. That has been very difficult for our families. We are trying to help people by offering live streaming of services, which they can watch live or later on our website. Even with so many limitations in place, we are still here to help and do what we can for our families who are grieving.” // –Jenny Roth
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