Almost overnight, Oregon’s streets went from bustling to silent.
Amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has increasingly dominated headlines the past few weeks, businesses and food establishments have been forced to adapt as the disease continues to spread.
Gov. Tony Evers signed an order Tuesday, March 24, calling for the public to stay at home and closing all non-essential businesses in the state. This comes a week after he ordered a ban on gatherings of 10 people or more, updating the order Friday, March 20, to close salons, spas and body art parlors.
According to the latest order, media and news organizations, laundromats, financial institutions, public transportation, healthcare institutions and grocery stores may remain open.
But as the Observer reached out to affected businesses and food establishments, one thing became clear — they aren’t going down without a fight.
Some restaurants and bars continue to offer curbside pickup and online ordering. Other businesses have shifted employees to working from home, offering meetings and classes virtually. The Observer spoke with five business owners — Dave Heide, Charlie’s on Main; Dave Grueneberg, White Rock Bar in Rutland; Dan Donoghue, The Chocolate Caper; Erin Chisman, Academy of Sound and Kelly Scholz-Temte, Wishing Tree Studio.
The five provided a window into what the business climate is now like in Oregon. They all voiced concerns about their employees’ financial well being and health, but offered hopes they will all weather this storm together.
The owners come from varying circumstances.
While Gruenewald said he’s retired and the majority of his employees were part-time with other jobs, Heide said he worries the pandemic will greatly impact his staff’s income. Donoghue said his staff is doing all they can to stay afloat. Both Chisman and Scholz-Temte said their businesses have so far adapted well to going virtual for now. Academy of Sound, which relies on foot traffic for its store, Chisman said, has adapted to providing online music lessons.
Wishing Tree Studio is offering daily live meditations via Zoom conference at 3 p.m. for now and is putting together a video library with many instructor courses on its webpage at wishintreestudeio.com, Scholz-Temte said.
While Charlie’s on Main has closed for dine-in purposes — including its speakeasy — the restaurant is offering curbside pickup and online ordering for hungry customers.
Chef Heide continues to offer his $5 pay-what-you-can soup option as well as a to-go option.
He said one of his biggest concerns is his staff — trying to help them stay employed — and assisting those who are most vulnerable during this crisis — financially and health-wise.
“I’m worried about how we are going to take care of these people who need our help now more than ever,” Heide said.
He said he thinks the overall worry businesses have is how uncertain the pandemic’s outcome remains.
“Everything went from being totally normal to being shut down,” Heide said. “If everyone felt things were only closing for two weeks, people wouldn’t be feeling as stressed.”
Virtual music lessons
The building Academy of Sound resides on North Bergamont is closed to the public currently, Chisman said, but that doesn’t mean music lessons or sales have ceased.
Music school staff is offering its students online lessons. Academy of Sound also sells products through its website at academyofsound.org and on Amazon.
“Time will tell with that,” Chisman said.
She said her concern is that other jobs won’t transfer onto the web as well as Academy of Sound’s has. The business already had the online measures in place for severe weather instances. Chisman also worries for the families Academy of Sound serves — students might stop lessons if finances become tight, necessitating groceries, rents, mortgages and health.
“We do have a scholarship organization,” Chisman said. “We have some funds available with that, but not enough to cover anything at a large scale.”
But she said, the ability to enjoy and learn music can be a constant in the midst of other changes during a crisis.
“If we can look for the little bright spots, music can be one of those,” Chisman said.
Dan Donoghue, owner of The Chocolate Caper, told the Observer in a press release the shop is also doing pay-what-you-can options, in addition to donating sales to area charities.
The shop is suspending its curbside and walk-in pickups but will ship and deliver orders once a day in Oregon while following stringent safety guidelines to protect staff and customers.
“We are taking orders and payments online, and over the phone when necessary,” Donoghue writes.
Delivery is pay-what-you-can, he said, with free, $2, $5 and $10 options on the Chocolate Caper website.
“During these uncertain times, we understand and share the anxiety and concern permeating through the lives of our customers, vendors and friends,” he said. “However, our biggest concern is our greater community and its more vulnerable members — whether that vulnerability is medical, financial or the lack of other critical resources.”
Going dark (for now)
Grueneberg said White Rock Bar is closing up shop completely.
“I never thought I would see anything like this,” he said.
He said he was one of the lucky ones, as Grueneberg has owned the bar during his retirement. And he said he has a pension and is not reliant on his business to survive.
As for his employees, Grueneberg said he has one full-time bartender and some part-time help who have other jobs to rely on for income. He said he is working out options with his full-timer to continue to pay them during the health crisis.
In the end, closing was the best decision to make to spare the health of employees and customers.
“We’ve been through situations like this before,” he said. “You have to do everything you can to prevent it.”
Finding inner peace
Wishing Tree Studio has adapted its business model to offer its clients and students a little inner peace during a time of great anxiety and uncertainty.
In addition to the meditation classes, the studio is continuously updating its Facebook page with new online offerings for yoga classes.
“Becoming still during meditation, and with moving the body during yoga … both are excellent ways to check in on how your mind and body are feeling,” Scholz-Temte said. “Our live offerings will help keep our community connected.”
When Scholz-Temte emailed the Observer Wednesday, she hosted a Yin class that morning at 10 a.m.
She said she is concerned that Wishing Tree Studio instructors and students stay healthy during this time. For the businesses, she hopes it can keep up with rent and utility bills.
“We will come through this as a community and be stronger, and as business owners, it gives us opportunities to learn a lot of new things,” Scholz-Tempte said.