Sarah Ebert started her role as Stoughton Chamber of Commerce President less than one month ago.
She did not anticipate that she would be guiding Stoughton businesses into uncertain times — through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is about a Stoughton thing — it is not about a Chamber thing,” Ebert said. “People look to us as a general resource so we are trying to guess why people would look to us and what kind of info they would like to know.”
Stoughton has more than 230 businesses, with at least 22 restaurants and four hair salons. On Friday, March 20, Governor Tony Evers declared certain non-essential businesses must close including hair salons, tattoo parlors and nail salons. Restaurants must offer carryout, curbside pickup or delivery service but can not have sit-down dining. Stoughton businesses are finding alternatives to continue to sell their merchandise and try to remain optimistic.
Cesar Cervantes, co-owner of El Rio Grande on Main Street, said this city has been good to him and his family since they opened more than 15 years ago. He is confident he will continue to see support.
“The people of Stoughton are the most resilient group of people I’ve ever seen,” Cervantes said. “In 100 degree weather, below zero degree weather, horrible construction, people still find a way to come to our restaurant and support us.”
At least 12 restaurants in Stoughton are still open, including El Rio Grande, and offering either carryout, curbside pickup or delivery in order to adapt to the dine-in ban.
Famous Yeti’s Pizza on Page Street wrote a Facebook message that read, “when life gives you lemons, throw those nasty lemons away and order pizza.” The message also encouraged people to buy from local restaurants and to reach out if anyone is in need.
“And if anyone is ever in need of a good meal and doesn’t know how they can manage to get one, please do not hesitate to ask. The Yeti and everyone down here would buy you and your kids lunch or dinner in a heartbeat and know hundreds of others who would gladly do the same,” the March 16 Facebook post read.
“Stoughton has been so good to Famous Yetis for over 8 years now. We will be here for you as long as the Yeti’s still kickin. Keep your heads up and your hands washed. Much love from all of us.”
Other businesses, such as shops and thrift stores, have been asked to shut their doors to the public but are still offering curbside pickup or online orders.
Spry Whimsy, a fine fiber store’s owner Peter McMasters said they are still “plugging along,” offering to do virtual tours of their store so shoppers can still purchase yarn, felt and other fine fibers. But he said the biggest hit for his business is the cancellation of events like the 2020 Knit-In, a Madison Knitters Guild event which was scheduled this month. McMasters has been stocking up on inventory for that event and six other events around the midwest.
“They are all canceled,” he said.
All Through the House, a household appliance store on Main Street, can no longer offer their popular cooking classes but are still selling products. The All Through the House Facebook page is posting pictures of items and offering to pick drop them off curbside.
“When you are ready for a relaxing cuppa tea (or coffee!) we can help with Chantal’s cheerful — and efficient--kettles! Message me for more info, call me @608-877-9403 converse via our Facebook page! I’ll be happy to run whatever you need via curb service! Stay healthy! @ All Through The House,” the Facebook Post read.
Leila Abrouq, owner of BBG’s, said if only she could know how long her restaurant would be closed it would reduce her fear.
She said she can’t plan for the future, and she can’t answer employee’s questions.
“The number one thing I get asked is when can I come back to work,” Abrouq said.
Abrouq said she has laid off several employees so she can sleep at night, because now those employees are able to collect unemployment.
“Things could change any minute — well we are here now,” McMasters said. “Until we are not.”