Coronavirus: Small Spartanburg businesses in ‘survival mode’

Coronavirus: Small Spartanburg businesses in ‘survival mode’

“A lot of small businesses are in survival mode right now. They are going to struggle to survive; they may have to lose employees, they may close down.”

March 17, 2020

By Dustin Wyatt

While typically busy at lunchtime, the dining room at Herb ’N Eats was empty Tuesday afternoon.

The restaurant on Union Street is one of several in the Upstate that moved to take-out or delivery only hours before Gov. Henry McMaster ordered that all bars and restaurant close in-house service to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The closures were ordered to begin Wednesday.

In Spartanburg, Herb ’N Eats has seen a 50 percent drop in business over the past few days, said its owner Autumn Ballew.

“Our business has slowed down tremendously,” she said.

The virus, which has infected more than 5,000 across the U.S., has put small businesses on life support, said Frank Knapp, the President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

As the leader of a group that advocates for the success of small businesses statewide, he’s calling for the federal government to do more to help local restaurants and retailers during this time of need.

In a phone interview, Knapp told of a recent visit to a McDonald’s in the low country of South Carolina that had its dining room roped off to customers. Global corporations like these are in better shape though than the small businesses, he emphasized.

“Corporations have deep pockets, they can turn to shareholders; local small businesses don’t have that luxury,” Knapp said. “A lot of small businesses are in survival mode right now. They are going to struggle to survive; they may have to lose employees, they may close down.”

If there were ever a time to urge residents to #shoplocal, this is it. Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said that many local small businesses will be impacted over the weeks and months ahead.

“We urge our community to band together and support small businesses like never before, while following critical recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “Pick up essentials from locally-owned stores, order takeout from local restaurants, participate in innovative digital offerings, shop online with local merchants, and influence others to do the same.”

Tuesday, three restaurants began using Hub City Delivery to get food out to customers. This week, more than five of the delivery company’s clients, including Herb ’N Eats, eliminated its dine-in option altogether and moved to carry out or delivery only.

As a result, Hub City Delivery has seen a significant uptick in business lately, owners say. Even so, the local company, a small business itself, is dropping delivery fees to its customers to encourage more people to patronize restaurants.

“We need folks to remember these local restaurants right now,” Hub City Delivery owner Sarah Petty said. “The restaurants have employees to pay, and bills to pay. This is their livelihood.”

Restrictions have been placed on restaurants and bars outside of Spartanburg due to the coronavirus. In Columbia, its mayor required that tables in restaurants be 6 feet apart and hold no more than six patrons. Additionally, all city businesses are required to reduce their legal capacity by 50 percent.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has mandated that all restaurants and bars close to dine-in customers.
Early Tuesday, Josh Dodson, a manager at New Groove Artisan brewery in Boiling Springs, expressed fear that a similar measure would be on the way for South Carolina.

And then later, it was announced by the state’s governor.

As if local businesses weren’t already hurting enough, Dodson said.

“A lot of businesses won’t be able to reopen once the order is lifted without government help,” said Dodson, adding that while his bar hasn’t been impacted too much yet, he’s expecting things to get worse. We are bracing for an impact.”