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Lucente: We must work together to survive the pandemic

Lucente: We must work together to survive the pandemic

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We have all seen a change in our daily lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some of us the change has been harsh and for others the change has been good. For most, your job or profession is the determining factor whether COVID-19 has had a negative or positive effect on your life.

For instance, Webber Payne, the owner of Waynesboro Florist inc., the oldest business in downtown Waynesboro, is down about 50% over the past five months. This is mostly due to people not having funerals and some places like nursing homes not accepting flowers. With the hardship, Mr. Payne has not missed a day of work at the store since the beginning of the outbreak. Thanks to the PPP (payroll protection plan), he was able to continue keeping his employees working and hopefully his business will survive through the ordeal.

On the other hand, Jennifer Ledford, owner of Initial Inspirations in downtown Waynesboro, has increased her business in 2020 over 2019. She closed the store to the public from March 20 through June 11 except by appointment only. During that time, she had time to reassess her business and she reconfigured the store for better flow. She redid the displays and showroom. Her efforts have paid off with more business and she feels people are starting to understand the importance of small businesses. She received a grant from the Economic Development Authority and a small loan from the Staunton Creative Fund, which has helped.

Tommy Lawhorn and Kevin Little, owners of South River Fly Shoppe in Waynesboro, have seen their big-ticket item sales go down while small items increased. Their guide business is down, because many of the parks are closed and people are not venturing out. As a consequence, they shortened the store hours by closing an hour earlier. They feel that this pandemic “will separate the weak from the strong.”

Owner of Stella, Bella, and Lucy’s, Rodger Doyle says his restaurant was closed from March 13 through July 7 and business has been picking up more each week since he reopened. You must wear a mask until seated and if you leave your table you must remask.

These are a few examples of what small businesses are going through during the pandemic. Many small businesses will never reopen and there will be new startups in their place. Many restaurants will not come back as they were or not at all. Based on what I observed, my thinking is that there will be a lot of carryout- and delivery-only restaurants. Some of the existing restaurants have restructured their operations to do this now and they are finding out it is as profitable as when they were a dine in restaurant. Customers are adjusting to ordering from a restaurant and having friends or family come to dinner at home. They don’t have to cook, and they are enjoying the company of family and friends at home. This may become a new norm.

Because of governmental programs, there is a 25% increase in the money supply, but because of the restrictions from COVID-19, not much is being spent. More things are being bought online and companies like Amazon are benefiting greatly. Because of this change in behavior, many retail businesses will never reopen. Some people, because of government programs, are making more money than when they worked. I would venture that some of these people are OK with that situation. Once the pandemic has been successfully resolved through a vaccine or herd immunity, it is my opinion that pent up demand will overwhelm the businesses that reopen. This increase in demand might not be able to be met and this will result in prices going up and upward pressure for increased inflation. This may be the new norm.

Because of the government’s unparalleled printing and distributing of this large amount of money, the system has been held together. However, at some time down the road, we will have to pay a steep price for our actions.

The future is unknown and no one really knows what lies ahead. My only hope is that we will learn that we must work together for our nation to survive and prosper.

Frank Lucente is the author of “Politics & People: A Waynesboro Story.” He served as a councilman, vice mayor and mayor of Waynesboro over the course of 11 years.

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