Leigh Buehler-Rappold


By T. Leigh Buehler-Rappold
Faculty Member, Retail Management, American Public University

As we try to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic, small, locally owned businesses, especially those in a shelter-in-place-city, are quickly learning how to survive in these trying times.

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Large grocery chains are adjusting their store hours and regulating how many shoppers can enter the store at a time. Some are offering curbside and home delivery options.

Large retailers have closed their doors, and companies are moving to a work-from-home system to prevent the spread of the virus.

Some Businesses Are Switching Their Services to Online for the Time Being

Small business owners are scrambling to find a way to keep their business going during the pandemic. Some are switching their services to online for the time being. There are now numerous Pilates, yoga, and gym studios offering virtual classes so customers can still stay active while the doors are closed. Some studios are offering free classes; others are asking a small enrollment fee.

Children are also taking online soccer and basketball classes to help improve their skills. Dance studios too are uploading videos of dance routines to keep classes moving forward.

Restaurants Are Offering Pickup and Delivery Options

Many restaurants now offer curbside pickup meals because their dining areas are closed to abide by the social distancing regulations. This is an option for those who do not have room to store several weeks’ worth of groceries or for those who need a break from constantly making meals.

Some restaurants are delivering meals when other delivery options are not available. A few creative restaurants are taking special orders for meals to go.

One bar owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is offering home delivery of beer and wine. The owner is also a licensed attorney and is offering legal services for wills, other documents and advice via online and by phone.

Some of the more formal and expensive restaurants have chosen to close and lay off their employees. The $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package expands unemployment benefits. So laid-off and furloughed workers will get an extra $600 a week for up to four months.

The law also extends state benefits by 13 weeks. This allows workers to file for unemployment and look for other work in the meantime. But fortunately health insurance covers many of these online services, highlighting one positive amid the many closures of small businesses.

Other Small Businesses Have Creative Ideas to Weather the Pandemic

Many art studios have closed their doors per city or state ordinances. Some artists are taking lessons online and some studios are offering gift cards to be used once the studios reopen. Such measures bring in some cash for the studios to cover bills and maintain their customer base until the COVID-19 threat passes.

A locally owned-bridal store in Austin, Texas, is attempting to help their bride and future bride customers as much as possible. While the doors are closed, the staff is still receiving 38 hours of weekly pay. The employees answer emails and voicemails, accept shipments, monitor and process orders, and reassure their soon-to-be brides that their orders are on track. The plan is to be able to hit the ground running when they are allowed to open their doors again.

Nationwide, photographers are one of the hardest-hit small businesses. Many no longer can hold photo sessions and are struggling to set up rebookings. Without clients, many photographers are limited to their family photography business.

How Long Can These Small Businesses Survive?

As Americans, we enjoy the idea of personal freedom: the right to work, the right to earn a living, the right to move about on our own. While most individuals are willing to sacrifice for the greater good during this pandemic, but how much longer can small business owners survive in this turbulent time?

About the Author

Leigh Buehler-Rappold is an Assistant Professor of Retail Management at American Public University. She is also a course consultant, social media specialist and curriculum design team leader. Her academic credentials include a B.A. in history and sociology from Texas A&M University, an MBA in business administration from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in American history from American Public University. Leigh is passionate about adult education, equal education rights of deaf/hard-hearing students and her beagle Jack.