Small businesses try to make the best of an uncertain economy amid coronavirus spread

Tracking Coronavirus

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The weekend before St. Patrick’s Day is usually huge for small businesses in the Metro.

However, with parades and parties canceled due to the coronavirus, mom and pop shops are trying to make the best of it.  For many small businesses that rake in two to three weeks revenue in one weekend, the uncertain economy is truly unsettling.

North Kansas City usually draws tens of thousands of revelers for its annual Snake Saturday parade. People ready to party and drop some green at local restaurants and bars. This year businesses along the parade route that opened early and ordered extra food and supplies for the biggest party of the year are losing money, and they are worried about their financial futures. 

Brandi Smithmeir is the owner of Paul and Jack’s, and says any kind of shut down would have ramifications.

“If they were to quarantine us or shut down the city, it’s going to be a major hit to small businesses.  I don’t know what I will do moving forward,” he said.  

Still, some customers were willing to take the risk to uphold holiday traditions and support businesses they love. Jessi Thompson says St. Patrick’s Day is like Christmas for her family and friends.

“Everything is crazy now, and we are getting down here and supporting them and we are doing what we need to do,” she said. 

Greg Monnig says for now, threat of the virus isn’t going to stop him and his friends from celebrating.

“We are taking the precautions that they are suggesting, washing hands, sanitizing, etc.  It feels a little ridiculous, but I get it,” he said.

In an effort to reassure patrons, businesses like Big Rip Brewing have taken away self-serve popcorn, board games and foosball tables. They are going the extra mile to sanitize everything, including the taps, and they are using plastic cups.

“That way people know they are getting a brand-new cup every time they order something,” head brewer Bri Burrows said.

Kind Food, a vegan restaurant in the Iron District of North Kansas City, is going through boxes of gloves and exceeding recommendations laid out by the health department.

“We are putting our credit card reader in the window so customers can insert it themselves. We have a tablet that has to be signed, so we sanitize it after every transaction,” owner Phillip Jones said.

In some parts of the country where the coronavirus is more widespread, small business have had mandatory, temporary shutdowns, but lost revenue has sometimes forced permanent closure. 

According to Joe Gauer, with the River North Business League, that fact weighs heavily on the minds of local business owners.  

“It is going to be really tough. People are playing it safe, as they should, and that does have an economic cost to small businesses that rely on social interaction,” he said.

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