When the outbreak of COVID-19 began in earnest, business slowed to a trickle almost overnight.
According to Dawson County business owners, small local restaurants and businesses seen as staples of the community are in real trouble right now due to the limitations and restrictions caused by the outbreak.
If support doesn’t come fast, many face staff layoffs, reductions of service and worse.
“Our foot traffic has taken a nosedive,” Doug Cole, owner of Because Coffee said last week, when asked how his business is faring. “And we’re geared to sell coffee beans, so our wholesale is affected because cafes and restaurants haven’t been selling as much coffee.”
Similarly, owners of Aunt Dyann’s in downtown Dawsonville say their business has seen a huge drop in business since the outbreak.
“All we’re doing at this point is offering delivery,” Todd said. “We’d like to be able to stay open for emergency responders because fire and police men come in here and get takeout.”
For other restaurants like Big D’s BBQ, owners have already had to make some difficult decisions, laying off employees due to the steep decline in business.
“Last week was the most difficult week I’ve had in my professional career, having to lay off 75% for our Dawson staff and 80% of our Cumming staff, and those are people who’ve been with us forever and are working paycheck to paycheck,” Big D’s Owner Darin Muenchow said. “We’ve had to shrink our opening hours and had to close the downtown location except for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we may end up having to close that one altogether until all this is over.”
For many of the local small businesses, it’s been all about the creativity of trying to keep customers coming in even in the middle of everything.
“We’ve increased Because Coffee’s marketing via Facebook and email,” Cole said. “And we’ve also started offering live coffee brew and coffee bean roasting classes on our Facebook and Instagram pages to keep people engaged on social media."
Because Coffee has also started offering curbside pickup and local delivery for orders.
“You can call or text for drinks and we’ll bring them out to you for curbside pickup,” Cole said. “And we’re also offering local expedited delivery as well.”
Aunt Dyann’s is also offering local delivery, as well as offering a slightly modified menu for the time being.
“We cook to order, so we’ve taken a lot of the stuff that takes longer to prep off the menu,” Todd said. “We are delivering though, and you can request a no-contact delivery where we’ll just leave it on your porch.”
For Big D’s, the goal is to offer as many alternatives to dining in as possible during the restrictions.
“We’re offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery either through our app or our website,” Muenchow said. “And we also offer delivery through GrubHub. We also may try to put in some kind of makeshift drive through soon.”
While supporting smaller local businesses may look different than usual with COVID-19 restrictions, there are still many ways the community can help out local restaurants.
“If you’re not sure if a business if open, just ask and check in with the business,” Cole said. “Any support you can give helps. You can share, send to loved ones, get creative with how you support them.”
Independent businesses have been hit hard by the virus, and small business owners are thankful for any support from the community, according to Muenchow.
“It was a very quick and immediate change, caught us all off-guard, and for us small family-owned businesses we may not make it,” Muenchow said. “So it’s so important for all of us to support these small independent businesses, even if you’ve never tried them before.”