Mom and Pop and COVID-19

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With COVID-19 lockdowns still in place across the country, many small businesses are feeling the effects of the halt. Henniker is a small town, rich with local business owners that are no exception. Changes can be seen in many ways, with some owners adopting curbside pickup and adjusted hours, while others are closing their doors for the foreseeable future.

For Sarah Chapin, the owner of the Henniker Pharmacy, more than just the hours have changed. For now, the Pharmacy is operating from 9-5, as opposed to their usual 8-9. The early close is to allow time for deliveries, which the pharmacy is now offering to patients. Chapin wants to give customers that are self-quarantining, have COVID, or don’t feel comfortable leaving their house the ability to get their medication without risking their health.

Abby Myskowski, the owner of Abby’s Café, is trying to give the same options to her patrons. When Governor Sununu announced that dine-in was no longer an option in restaurants, Myskowski immediately made the move to take-out, but even that has its drawbacks. With customers coming in the café to order, she was concerned that tables and surfaces were being contaminated. Myskowski also noticed that employees were feeling the stress of a packed café, while trying to maintain social distancing measures. After a few weeks of wiping down surfaces after patrons left, she decided to move to window service.

Now, Myskowski takes orders in the front of the store, donning her facemask and gloves, while the staff stay in the kitchen. “My biggest concern is keeping my employees safe.”

Sonny’s Main Street Restaurant is also taking precautions. While still allowing people to come inside the store and pay, special measures are being taken to keep door handles, pens, and counters clean.

Sonny’s hours have changed, with the restaurant closing an hour early every night. Arthur Kalioras, the owner of the restaurant along with his wife Barbara, are determined to stay open as long as possible, not only for the residents of Henniker, but also for their employees. One of Kalioras’ main concerns is his employee’s ability to carry on through the virus, but he has faith in the community that he has founded his business in. He feels that the residents are “thankful and grateful” that they have remained open, but he wants to extend a “big thank you for the town and the people that are supporting us through this.”

Chapin feels that the community is grateful as well. When Sununu issued his stay-home order, many residents were worried that the Pharmacy was going to close, but Chapin’s response was “Of course not. It’s not like when you can go to the grocery store and buy 56 rolls of toilet paper, you can’t necessarily come in and buy 16 inhalers.”

Residents have even been donating homemade masks for not only the Pharmacy staff to wear, but also to give away to patients that may need it. “We are a very tightknit town, we’re very community-concerned, we care about our neighbors, and people are very thankful and appreciative of everything that everybody does.”

Myskowski feels the same, “I’m seeing people that we only saw maybe once a week, coming in every single day, just to make sure they stop here and support us.” On top of that, many of her customers have been incredibly generous with tipping, which she hopes is making up for the cut in hours that her employees are currently facing. Although the amount of business they have seen has dropped significantly, she feels that the amount of support she is receiving has made things easier.

For now, Sonny’s and the Henniker Pharmacy do not have any big changes in the works, but to continue their business as usual as they can and follow Governor Sununu’s lead. Chapin hopes this shows that while curbside pickup and delivery options are not normally offered, they always can be. “Maybe a year from now, somebody’s whole family has the flu and they don’t feel like coming in the store, I want them to know that that’s still a possibility.”

Myskowski also expects that after COVID-19 has slowed, the “new-normal”may be very far from what we’re used to. “We’re still going to step-up our sanitization procedures. I’m going to be changing around the layout to take away a lot of self-serve stuff, because I think there’s going to be a lot of public concern that remains for a long time.” She plans on limiting what people touch in the future by handing people their coffee cups and lids, but still allowing them to put their own cream and sugar in, so they don’t come in contact with the cups that other customers may use. She also wants to make the dine-in area more separate to prevent cross-contamination.

Many small businesses in America are struggling, but Henniker owners and the community  are very unique. Like all of the business owner, Chapin wants the town of Henniker to know how much their support means, “as usual, the community of Henniker is by far one of the most wonderful places in the world. It makes it easy to do my job because there’s just such wonderful people in this town.”

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