COVID-19 continues to have an impact on small businesses throughout Indiana

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When the coronavirus pandemic began in March, so many questions were raised regarding what is going to happen next. Nine months have passed and we have continued to see the type of impact that COVID-19 has had on both the macro and micro level. 

Facing some of the hardest times are small businesses throughout the state and the country as a whole. 

According to the National Federation of Independent Business(NFIB), approximately one-in-five small and independently owned businesses in Indiana will have to permanently close their doors for good due to the financial impact of COVID-19.

This financial impact has been detrimental to businesses that did not have the luxury of being open during the initial lockdown towards the beginning of the year. 

For the businesses that have the privilege to remain open throughout these times, navigating the continued changes to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as maintaining revenue to stay afloat has not been the easiest task. 

Carl Tappendorf, owner of Schoolhouse 7 Cafe in Fishers, expressed the need to shift operational focus on areas outside of the regular day-to-day in-person service during the initial lockdown in March. 

“We focused on our drive-thru operation immediately as it was our only opportunity to serve our customers,” Tappendorf said. “With our operation being confined within the walls of a once one-room schoolhouse, we had to really work on equipment placement and worker flow to maximize the efficiency of our space,” he continued. 

Tappendorf and his crew also created their own Schoolhouse 7 app for customers to order remotely and drive to one of the designated mobile order parking spots to receive their order. 

Due to the Schoolhouse 7 Cafe opening in August 2019, they were not eligible for many grants because they weren’t considered profitable during the fiscal year. 

“The federal PPP program did assist many small businesses, but unfortunately, it was a temporary band-aid,” Tappendorf explained.

Fortunately, the city of Fishers has reached out to local businesses to provide assistance in promoting them. The city has also offered loans to help these businesses for the times where it does slow down. 

For other small business owners, COVID-19’s financial impact is very reminiscent of the beginning days when a new business first came onto the scene. 

Joel Reitz, owner of O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant in downtown Indianapolis, spoke on the similarities between the decline in business today, to the time where he first opened his restaurant 14 years ago. 

“There weren’t so many things to do downtown, so this time reminds me of back then. It’s almost like we are starting over again as a new business,” Reitz said. 

Back in March, Reitz and a majority of other owners only had about four days to come up with a plan to deal with the unforeseen adjustments of the coronavirus. 

“That Thursday seating was limited and events were canceled, and by Sunday night we got the word that we were shutting down on Monday to carry out only,” Reitz continued. 

The location of many businesses also plays a major role in how well local businesses can sustain throughout the pandemic. 

Reitz believes that businesses located near neighborhoods and more popular areas like Broad Ripple are going to do better compared to businesses located downtown because it creates a safer feel for those in the community. Downtown businesses rely solely on events and people who work there to bring in revenue.

In terms of reopening, Reitz has taken the necessary precautionary measures to ensure that both his staff and clientele remain safe and healthy throughout these times. 

“Since reopening. I have only had an issue with one person not wearing a mask,” he said.

He has also invested in several HEPA air purifier units, which are certified to take the COVID-19 particles out of the air and add to more ventilation. Slowing down the spread of any possible transmission of the virus. 

With two successful vaccines being distributed to major parts of the world, a sense of returning to normal for businesses that have managed to remain open during these times looks to be a plausible outcome. 

Continue to support local businesses like Schoolhouse 7 Cafe and O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant by following their social media pages. You can also get the word out to those you are close to to make sure these businesses can see a brighter future for years to come.

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