Justin Morrison | Corridor News Reporter
The COVID-19 pandemic took the U.S. by surprise and affected the livelihood of many, and the Hays County community was no exception.
During this period, the unemployment rate went up by approximately 14 million from February to May.
Now not only were people supposed to be cautious of their health, but the economy entered a state of uncertainty.
On March 13, Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster proclamation for the state of Texas. Soon to follow, on March 19, a shelter in place order was issued for the county; causing all non-essential businesses to close their doors and begin a fearful journey into the unknown.
San Marcos is a town that is known to thrive off of locality and the support from its community. Because of the shelter in place order, many local businesses were now forced to temporarily shut down and find a way to maintain operations, if possible.
For local small business owner Pam Couch, of Two P’s and Calli’s, it was about finding creative ways to operate her business.
After being in business for 25 years, she is no stranger to the ups and downs of the economy and has always taken pride in her business model; quality customer service and the memorable experience that they are able to provide.
“We needed to be creative in different ways that I’ve never had to be in 25 years,” Couch said. “As crazy and uncomfortable as it seems, we have got to try something.”
Two P’s and Calli’s have always had their social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, but have never fully utilized them for online sales.
Two P’s and Calli’s began to live stream their store on Facebook two to three times a week, having great success in this new way of operating.
“In a time like this, if you want to make it, you have to go all out,” Couch said.
Two P’s and Calli’s live stream has helped them cope with the current pandemic and keep them up and operating. The success that they have had is a direct result of the business model and the value that it holds.
“For every live video when we first started it was at least a six-hour ordeal,” She said. “It would take a couple of hours to prepare, an hour or so to do it, and afterward two to three hours to process and pull everything and collect the money.”
The customers have expressed that this is something they need to continue to do because it is a great way to sell their products, according to Couch.
However, for some, switching to a remote way of operating was just not doable. Local businesses, such as Premier Cuts, were not able to stay open and forced to keep the doors closed until the order was lifted.
Brian Olson, the owner of Premier Cuts, took this time to reevaluate and assess how he was going to move forward upon reopening.
The shelter in place order was different for many local businesses. Salons and barbershops were required to shut down and to stay shut down until the second phase of opening began.
Phase one of reopening the state of Texas began on May 1.
The phase one order allowed businesses such as retailers, malls, movie theaters, and restaurants to allow people through their doors but only at 25% capacity.
Phase two of reopening began on May 18.
The phase two order allowed for the businesses that were able to open during the first phase to expand to 50% capacity. The new businesses that were able to open at 25% capacity were childcare centers, bars, barbershops, salons, and many more.
During the month-long shutdown, Olson prepared for what was about to be the new norm of day-to-day business operations.
“I stocked up. I overpaid for rubbing alcohol and disinfectants. It was a cost, but that is part of the business; you have to be able to adapt,” Olson said.
The safety and health of his clientele and staff was his top priority upon reopening, according to Olson.
“We would have to raise the bar of what everyone was normally doing or what was necessarily always required,” Olson said while emphasizing the importance of the new safety measures that were to begin with opening amidst the pandemic. “It makes me feel good that we are going above and beyond and doing everything that we can to make my employees and customers safe.”
Garth Tubbs, owner of The Vault, a local bar in San Marcos, used the time that he had while closed to reevaluate their current protocols and what they were going to do to ensure the health and safety of his employees and customers.
“You would never have thought that a sanitation company is someone you would have to call – it’s pretty crazy,” Tubbs said. “We spent nearly two and a half to three weeks cleaning the place up and down,” to make sure that they were going above and beyond for the safety of his staff and customers.
According to Tubbs, they also took the time to complete renovations that were needed to improve the quality and appearance of The Vault.
During this period of closure, they went through old inventory and switched out all of the cups and went completely plastic to provide a safer way to serve and consume drinks.
They also made sure that they were stocked up on sanitation products as well as constantly checking the cleanliness of the bathrooms, bar tops, and the tables that customers were using and frequenting.
Tubbs wanted to emphasize what he loved about the current situation was the way that the community has come together to help each other out.
“Standing together and sticking together as a community was something that was really great to see. Even if we are all different businesses in our own different industries, competing for a market together, it’s amazing to see everyone come through and how everyone has had their own measures of safety and sanitation,” Tubbs said. “Everyone came together for this and it’s a beautiful thing to see. And I really applaud all of the managers and the owners coming together and really trying to get this thing and do everything the right way.”
During these adverse times, local businesses have relied upon support from their community. Many local businesses are ensuring the safety of the staff and customers.
Taking the necessary precautions, adapting to the new norms, and accommodating to the new protocols have shown that these local businesses are not only resilient but that they truly value the people of their community.