Doing business in Arthur during the pandemic
How businesses have managed and what they are doing to remain safe
By ARIANA R. CHERRY
On Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 pm, all Illinoisans were required to shelter in place. It was to last until April 7, although, on March 30, that order was extended through April 30. Many businesses unless marked “essential,” had to shut their doors. The pandemic threatened many of our businesses in Arthur and their livelihoods. They worried about the state of their finances and wondered when they would re-open. Those worries would be addressed when Governor Pritzker announced his “Restore Illinois Plan,” in May. The state would gradually reopen in five different phases, and was separated into regions. On June 26, Illinois is on track to move into phase 4, which allows for gatherings of 50 people, restaurants and bars to open their dining rooms with capacity limits and the reopening of health and fitness centers and movie theaters.
During the “shelter in place” order and gradual reopen of Illinois, Arthur businesses have been getting by the best that they can. Even with the availability of curbside pick-up, take-out and delivery options, some still noticed a decline in business. With phase 4 just around the corner, local businesses are starting to see a few bright spots ahead, but even with the new re-openings, there are limitations and precautions that must be taken, so that both customers and employees can stay safe during the pandemic.
“The entire park was closed down for the first month when Covid started,” stated a representative from Aikman Wildlife Adventures. “We were then able to get permission to open our Drive-thru Only since people would not be getting out of their cars. Our restrooms remained closed,” they stated. To protect customers at the park, more hand sanitizing units were installed for guests to have easy access to. “After each Behind the Scenes Adventure,we sanitize our UTV. For now, we only allow one family per tour to help follow the guidelines of social distancing. We are sanitizing every 2 hours inside the gift shop and office area and on all high touch areas. Signs have been hung in the break room that state our staff to cover their coughs and sneezes. Horse hooves have been painted six feet apart upon entry to help people see where to social distance as they wait to check in. The park has also provided gloves, hand sanitizer and masks to our workers,” they informed.
Presently, guests can enjoy the Drive-Thru, Walk Thru, and Behind the Scenes Adventures. The snack shop has not been open because the park doesn’t currently have the business to facilitate it. When it came to COVID, it affected Aikman’s in a few different ways. “It has had positive and negative effects on our park. The limits of capacity and social distancing has not allowed us to be fully open to maximize profits and what we can offer to our guests. We are not able to employ as many people which also have hurt some of the livelihoods of the unemployed. At the same time, we were one of the first parks able to safely open because our Drive-Thru allowed complete social distancing in the car,” they explained. “Even during the pandemic, Aikman’s has received a lot of exposure through Facebook and even from guests who didn’t know about us previously. We are blessed that this has helped the park and mental health of everyone,” they said.
The pandemic not only brought on business limitations or closures, but it also created cancellations of several events. Some events are quite important when it comes to the finances of certain types of businesses. Event cancellations have caused the Arthur Country Inn to lose a good portion of its annual guests who stay there. “Because of so many events being canceled, we have had fewer guests,” stated manager, Karen Morgan. “It has had a financial impact on our business, because people are afraid to travel, but it is starting to get a little better,” she said. “We’ve had some guests from out of state- primarily Amish drivers that are from Indiana, Ohio and Iowa. There are a lot of Amish drivers who stay here,” Karen added. To keep both customers and employees safe at the Inn, she noted that they had been using social distancing and telling employees that they could wear masks if they wish. “We used to have a breakfast bar but it has not been available because multiple people are touching things like the toaster and coffee maker, etc,” Karen noted. While they have been taking these types of precautions and extra care to their cleaning, employees were already cleaning as if there were a pandemic beforehand. They continue to be diligent in their efforts. “We have always cleaned as if there was a pandemic. We’ve always made sure that light switches and door handles are wiped down, TV remotes and telephones after someone has stayed in a room. Everything gets wiped down with Clorox wipes, Lysol and sanitizer: surfaces, showers, sinks, the bathrooms – everything,” she informed. Karen did state that it had been difficult to find some cleaners once the pandemic began, but thankfully, they had some extra in stock already, and since business has been less than usual, there hasn’t been a need to restock…yet. “I have told my employees, if they do see cleaners – such as Lysol or wipes, to go ahead and grab them, and we will reimburse them,” noted Karen.
Although events have been canceled, there are some tourists making their way back to Arthur again. The Woodloft Furniture Store has noticed that some of its recent customers have been from out of town. “We first opened up in late May and it was pretty dead for a couple weeks. It has picked up quite a bit – obviously a long way before all this (the pandemic) happened. We are staying pretty busy,” noted Barry Burnett. To keep customers and employees safe, a sign has been placed on the door, asking customers to use social distancing and wear masks. There also are bottles of hand sanitizer placed around the store for customers to use. “We won’t kick someone out for not wearing a mask, though” said Barry.
Another downtown store on Vine Street in Arthur, the Arthur Flower Shop, has been weathering the storm during the pandemic too. “Being closed for several weeks certainly hurt our end year totals. We were blessed to be able to take phone calls and do deliveries out the back door.
People were really good to us,” said owner, Anita Krustinger. The Arthur Flower Shop opened back up the Thursday before Mother’s Day. “Since opening back up our customers are so appreciative that we are open and several are very concerned about how we survived-especially since we are a family business and both Mark and I work at the flower shop, it made people wonder. God is good. He took care of us,” stated Anita. While the store is open, they have decided to leave it up to the customers if they want to wear a mask or not and they wipe down the counters several times a day.
Some of the restaurants in Arthur have been hard hit by the pandemic as well. While businesses shut down and were only allowed to offer curbside pick up, carry-out or deliveries, they saw a large decrease in business. Although, thanks to many devoted customers in Arthur, these restaurants have been able to stay afloat during the rough times. “We’ve been very fortunate during this time to have the support of the community. Though this has been less than ideal, we’ve felt the love from the people of Arthur that have done their share of helping us to keep going! Of course, much of our business already consisted of carryout and delivery, so we’re lucky that only a few small changes were required on our part ,” informed Tyler and Katey Custer from It’s a Pizza. During the pandemic, the pizza restaurant has implemented several safety precautions for both their customers and employees. “Their safety, along with that of all of our staff’s family, is always our priority, “ they quoted. To limit interaction time, they have been doing curbside pick-up instead of regular carry-out, but do still continue to offer their delivery service. “We always wear masks when engaging with customers, and we’ve tried to take card payments over the phone as much as possible to limit contact time. Of course, we’ve also stepped up our already strict sanitation practices; increasing the frequency of hand washing and sanitation of surfaces,” the owners said. It’s a Pizza has not come to a decision about when they will move back to in-store carry -out, but when they do, they will wear masks out of respect for the safety of their customers and staff. “As always, we appreciate the patience and support of our customers during this time, “the duo said.
The Tastee Cup, a favorite stop among Arthur residents and tourists, is trying to bring some sweet “normalcy” since reopening its doors. “The pandemic has certainly impacted all businesses and we have found since reopening the general public is ready and willing to return to some sort of normality in order to take their life back while respecting the seriousness of the situation,” stated owner, Terry Clark. “ While being open during the pandemic, Terry informed that the Tastee Cup has adhered to the guidelines and requirements issued by the Moultrie County Health Department by requesting the use of masks and using social distancing while inside the store. “We continually clean and sanitize machines and topping utensils along with tables and restrooms. We have chosen to offer very limited seating space again on recommended procedure from the health department,” Terry informed. “We do not require the use of masks by our patrons but respect their choices. People want to make their own decisions rather than being dictated to and for the most part they are very capable of doing so,” he added.