LuAnn Locke, the owner of Afterwords Books, has moved to porch pickup sales only as of Dec. 28, due to the increase in cases in the Edwardsville area. She said that the store is too small to maintain safe social distancing, and has had trouble with patrons refusing to wear masks correctly. 

“Our space is very, very small. We have about 600 square feet in our store, so there’s really no way to safely social distance. And also, before, when we were open, we did get a little bit of pushback from some folks who didn’t want to wear masks or if they did, they didn’t wear it properly,” Locke said. 

She said they have seen a small decrease in sales since moving to porch pick up only, but retail businesses expect the time after Christmas to show a decrease in sales anyway.

Afterwords Books has had to close their doors before due to of COVID-19 and were able to survive on other sale outlets, so adapting to the Omicron wave was not a huge adjustment for the business, according to Locke. 

“After the first wave, we were closed almost a year and a half. And we were able to stay open through online sales and using social media to promote book bundles, puzzle bundles, sideline items. We have an online inventory as well,” Locke said. 

Locke said after numbers get back down to a safer number she is hoping to open back to in-person shopping, but may transition to appointment-only shopping, where the customer requests a time to come in and shop.

“Right now we’re kind of toying with the idea of maybe just going to appointments only once [COVID-19 numbers decrease]. Because again, we are tiny and going on three years now of this a yo-yo back and forth between opening and closing,” Locke said.  

Local restaurants have also faced challenges with COVID-19. Kate Baumgartner, the owner of Sacred Grounds, has also had supply chain issues, which affected her ability to get ingredients and other supplies for the coffee shop. She said that while the issue more recently has been getting news coverage, she has been dealing with it for nearly a year, as she opened her business in early 2021. 

“I’ve been suffering for almost a year now. I shop from two different distributors. I go everywhere [to find supplies],” Baumgartner said. “Usually, it takes about two or three days to get [supply] boats unloaded and put on [transport]. Now it is taking 14 to 15 days to unload. There is a lack of truck drivers so [the supplies], they’re not even getting to the Midwest.”

Many businesses are also suffering from supply chain issues, and some have had to change what they offer to make sure they have the supplies. A Little Taste of Heaven Bakery had to adapt its menu to fit what ingredients and supplies they are able to get, according to Valerie Maylor, head baker and manager. 

“{Supply chain delays is] our biggest issue. For instance, it would take us three months to get [coffee cups]. We’re not able to offer everything that we normally would say, pre-pandemic,” Maylor said. “There are several items that we actually had to take off of our menu because we can’t get the necessary ingredients for it or some of our deliveries might not arrive on time because that distributor doesn’t have enough drivers to give us their delivery.”

Small businesses are often faced with keeping their staff and customers safe. Baumgartner has began to offer a discount on carry-out orders, hoping to promote safety, while still supporting small businesses. 

“I typically have eight baristas and am currently down to four due to exposures and quarantines. If I can offer 30% off carry-out because if I can reward and basically pay you for being safe and keeping me and my staff safe, I will,” Baumgartner said. 

Locke said despite all the troubles small businesses have seen in the past few years, she has been extremely lucky and is grateful for the amount of support the community has shown her. 

“We’re just so lucky. We have such a great community and people really have rallied not just behind us, but all of the businesses in our community,” Locke said.

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