Washington businesses that are forced to close are working to strengthen and promote their online presence to keep their businesses afloat in the weeks ahead.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday declared nonessential businesses in Washington must close this week to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Neill’s Flowers and Gifts, a longtime family-owned store in Pullman, is one of those stores that will shut its doors today. Owner Mitch Chandler said he is attempting to see if the store is still allowed to take online orders from customers in the coming days.
He said the past few days have been “very emotional” and since his part-time staff members were let go, he and his son are the only people working at the store.
Austin Storm, owner of Bully For You in Colfax, said it has been challenging to adapt to the almost daily changes caused by COVID-19.
His store suspended in-store shopping last week. Since then, it has been selling its antique and vintage items online. Storm said social media has been a “big lifesaver” in promoting the store’s items, and he credited the public for being willing to adapt their shopping habits to support Bully For You.
“People have been really great following what we’re doing and continuing to make purchases despite the inability to actually come down and shop normally,” he said.
Storm said it is difficult not knowing what the uncertain future will hold for businesses like his, but he holds “a lot of faith and confidence that things will get back to normal and we’ll all make it through.”
Michelle Kelly, owner of Michelle’s Closet in Pullman, said her consignment shop has been closed this week as it works to build its website and perform online orders.
She has already seen a significant drop in sales in recent weeks as customers have avoided downtown Pullman.
She said social distancing is necessary to protect the community’s health, but she hopes the government can provide some assistance to small businesses like hers.
Kelly is hoping the federal government’s proposed stimulus package, if passed, will help Michelle’s Closet reopen its doors when businesses are allowed to operate normally again.
She credited the downtown business community for supporting each other and promoting each other’s websites in recent days.
Other local businesses remain less affected by COVID-19.
SYG Nursery in Pullman, for example, will be allowed to stay open as it enters the normally busy spring months.
Owner Donna Holstad said the nursery is considered an essential business because it sells food items such as seeds, vegetables and fruit trees.
Gardening is still an activity people can enjoy, and Holstad said SYG Nursery was busy with customers Tuesday.
Holstad said the nursery is constantly being disinfected and her staff is working to remain at least six feet away from people.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.