As coronavirus concerns plague the country into the unforeseeable future, small business owners in St. Charles Parish are already feeling the pandemic’s effects.
“We have lost a lot of New Orleans convention orders due to the virus,” Kristi Brocato, owner of The Basketry, said last week. “In the last two weeks, we have done many refunds and have taken apart several projects or have had to throw away projects that were in the works.”
While The Basketry’s business includes delivery services, Brocato said at her storefront she took precautionary measures by installing a standing hand sanitizer station for customers, as well as encouraging employees to stay home if they feel sick.
“As a small business owner, I have a few concerns and feel that as a team we have acted quickly and proactively to the virus,” she said.
Brocato maintained regular business hours for as long as she could, but posted to The Basketry’s Facebook page on Tuesday that she had made the decision to temporarily close the shop’s doors.
“We decided to close to eliminate the amount of exposure to the general public,” she said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended closing all non-essential businesses.
“We hope that folks will still support us online and through social media,” she added. “We will open when we feel that it’s safe for all involved.”
Parish Director of Economic Development Corey Faucheux said impacts to the local economy and small businesses have started to be assessed, adding Parish President Matthew Jewell has directed all levels of his administration to prioritize the help they can provide to local businesses and residents.
“Other than unsubstantiated, anecdotal evidence, I don’t have any verified data that allows me to make a public statement,” Faucheux said. “As you can imagine, this has been difficult due to the hyper-sensitive conditions that are changing by hour. We are assembling a clearinghouse of resources that are available to impacted businesses.”
Over at Maison Décor in Boutte, owner Shane Matherne said he has had to drastically reduce the number of employees working each shift because of slowed business. Shipping times for products coming into the store have doubled as well, something Matherne said may be due to workforce reductions across the country.
“Everyone who comes in the store mentions something about the virus,” Matherne said. “But as far as business goes, we’re keeping normal hours.”
An announcement on the store’s Facebook page will be posted if store hours change.
Matherne said sales started to decline in the middle of February, and it’s not just his storefront that has taken a financial hit. Maison Décor has 3500 products on Amazon, and Matherne said sales on the popular website have “almost been at a dead stop.”
In a period of uncertainty, there is something Matherne said he knows for sure.
“My customers are absolutely incredible,” he said. “We just celebrated 20 years open because of them. We’re going to bounce back.”
Raymond and Dara Guedry, owners of River Parish Crossfit, were forced to lock the doors to their gym Monday after Gov. John Bell Edwards rolled out a set of restrictions mandating all workout facilities close.
“Closing our facility is a worst-case scenario for us,” Raymond said. “We are a customer service based business, so daily interaction with our clients is what keeps us going … as of now we’re taking it a day at a time, but only time will tell.”
Gyms were added to the list of state-wide closures that already included schools and movie theaters. Restaurants state-wide are limited to delivery, take-out or drive through service in what Edwards calls “a rapidly evolving and escalating crisis.”