Downtown Columbia businesses seeing decline in customers due to coronavirus

Downtown Columbia businesses seeing decline in customers due to coronavirus

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some small business owners in downtown Columbia are taking measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and they're also preparing for a financial hit.

Shop owners in Five Points say they’re already noticing a decline in customers and are worried if this continues, they could lose thousands of dollars and have to change the way they run their shops.

At the Local Buzz Coffee Shop, owner Stephie Bridgers says she’s noticed a decline in clientele, specifically her regular customers, many of which aren’t college students.

Bridgers sent an email to her staff members last night telling them not to come into work if they aren’t feeling well, but she says she’s also struggling because if business continues at this slow rate, she could lose thousands of dollars and may not be able to afford to pay her employees. "We’re also thinking about how we can't just close down. If we close, there’s not a major corporation that is going to pay our bills. No one is going to just cover us, so we still have to pay rent, we still have to pay food costs, we still have to pay electricity, and we have vendors to pay, no matter if anyone comes in or not," Bridgers explained.

At lunchtime Thursday in Five Points, there were several empty parking spots, which business owners say is not normal, even during the University of South Carolina’s spring break.

Now that UofSC is discouraging students from returning to campus for the next three weeks and the St. Pats in Five Points event is canceled, shop owners are worried about their financial future.

At Southern Gentleman’s Barbering Co., co-owner Lisa Michaelis is also seeing and anticipating fewer customers.

“It's a little scary because our business could drop drastically, and it’s unknown. We don’t know how it's going to last," said Michaelis.

Her husband just installed a hand sanitizer unit for customers, and she says she is watching the shop’s expenses very closely right now. "We may end up cutting back, as far as our front desk employees," Michaelis explained.

While there is panic and uncertainty about what the next few weeks could look like for these small businesses, Don McCallister, owner of Loose Lucy's, is trying to stay optimistic.

“I feel confident we can persevere here at this little shop and many others like it," McCallister said.

Some of these businesses could be eligible to apply for federal aid to help deal with a decline in businesses due to the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, President Trump announced that companies affected by the virus will be given $50 billion more in low-interest loans, guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.