Small businesses bounce back in unpredictable times

By Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Firefly Boutique Owner Andrea Tooley, right, shows new greeting cards to her sister, Allison Menke of Holland after marking down spring and summer inventory at the shop in Huntingburg on Friday. Tooley said she did not make a profit off her spring and summer items due to the store's closure as a result of the stay-at-home order earlier this year. "Planning for this year is tough, we just don't know what to expect," she said.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

Every day is unpredictable for Andrea Tooley.

Like many small business owners, Tooley has found herself navigating a world of inconsistencies and unknowns since reopening the doors to her downtown Huntingburg shop, the Firefly Boutique, in a post-stay-at-home-order world.

“Before quarantine and everything, I could pretty well tell you what we would do in a week,” Tooley said in a Monday interview. “It was very predictable, honestly ... now, it’s all over the place. There’s no way to predict it whatsoever. It’s really bizarre.”

She opened Firefly in November 2019. The holiday season far exceeded her expectations — with record numbers from the Huntingburg Christmas Stroll and other special events bringing Tooley into 2020 with “a lot of momentum,” she recalled. The new boutique owner thought she’d be able to maintain a good level of business.

COVID-19 slowed that momentum. In lieu of in-person browsing, Tooley began offering curbside pickup and beefed up her online presence for customers, but even now, months removed from the days of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, her foot traffic still isn’t consistent.

“There are days that are exceptional,” she said, later adding that, “there are days that are just off-the-charts great. And then there are days that are terrible.”

At Mac-A-Doo’s and Out of Bounds in Jasper, owner Jim Bounds said that on the whole, he’s still missing out on 25 to 30% of the business he’d be doing if the virus wasn’t keeping guests out of restaurants and bars.

Mallori Betz of Santa Claus shops at Firefly Boutique in Huntingburg on Friday.

Though carryout was offered throughout the stay-at-home order, Bounds detailed how at its worst, Mac-A-Doo’s and Out of Bounds was missing out on more than 50% of the restaurant’s normal business. Dining room business is “still way down,” he explained on Monday, later adding that very few members of the restaurant’s older clientele have returned to eat.

“Some days, our lunch crowds, we’ve got a real good crowd,” Bounds said. “And some days, we might as well not even open the doors.”

Bounds shared that Mac-A-Doo’s and Out of Bounds has been up for sale since the beginning of the year. COVID-19 has affected that, too. Why would anyone want to buy a business that could be shut down due to the ongoing pandemic?

Also in Jasper, Paula Marshall’s licensed massage therapy business, Pause with Paula, has experienced a return to consistency that the other two businesses interviewed for this story have not. With a reduced number of appointments per day and an increase in sanitation practices, Marshall said that she is “pretty booked out until September” — and grateful for the support the community has shown her since she returned from a 2 ½ month hiatus.

“It’s a really trying time for a lot of businesses,” Marshall said. “And honestly, I have just been so, so blessed with this community. With Jasper, [and] Huntingburg as well. Just the support that everyone has given me.”

She’s down from six or seven clients a day to just four — the reduction prompted by the cleaning time required to sanitize the space — and customers are asked to send Marshall a text message before entering her West 28th Street office.

While her doors were closed, Marshall remained confident that her business would pull through to the other side. She trusted her clients and she trusted God. Even if the state were to shut down again, she is prepared to adapt.

“Like my niece said: If there are waves, just learn how to surf,” Marshall said. “If it does get shut down, then we just do what we have to do. And we move forward.”




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