Small businesses try to survive mandatory closures

By Aaron Rice
April 7, 2020

On Friday evening, businesses deemed non-essential closed their doors in Mississippi as they have been doing over the past couple weeks to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the country. 

Was this the right call? Was it too much or too little and too late? Regardless of what the blue checkmarks say, I will defer to the experts who are making those decisions and guiding the governor through these unthinkable times.

My family is doing the best we can to stay safe, and that’s really all we can control. Just like your family is all you can control.

But as we went for a ride on Saturday around lunchtime, we got a weird feeling going through the empty parking lots of the normally bustling Dogwood Festival Market off of Lakeland Drive in Flowood. Of course, as you drive near the Target, Kroger, or Lowe's you probably see more traffic than normal. 

But across the street near Belk, Old Navy, HomeGoods, Bath and Body Works, etc., you see a sprawling empty parking lot. For those who are fans of dead malls, it was as if that is what you entered. Except the signage was intact and the landscaping was freshly manicured. 

Yet tucked in between large national chains are numerous small businesses, such as Time 4 Toys, a rare independent toy store that competes every day with the likes of Walmart and Amazon. That was already enough of a challenge. Not being able to open their doors is just the latest obstacle.

But they, like many others, are getting creative. They’re offering free delivery within a 10 miles radius of the Flowood store. They are also offering curbside pickup from 11-2 during the week for those who place orders online. If you’re struggling to find something, send them a Facebook or Instagram message or call the store. They will be there to help you. 

And that’s just one of the many, many retailers who are trying to survive financially. Because as has been said, this is not just a health crisis. It’s also a financial crisis. The 30,000 Mississippians who filed for unemployment last week can attest to that. 

We don’t know when the health issues will pass or when we will all be safe to go about our daily lives. The stay at home order is in effect until April 20, but it could certainly be extended. Beyond not knowing when we’ll return to normal, we don’t even know what normal will look like. 

Will we be ready to go into restaurants or will we stick with the convenience of food delivery apps? Will we maintain our virtual approach to business with more people working from home or attending conferences in another state without having to leave town? Will you feel safe being within five feet of another person?

Maybe. Like most everything going on right now, we don’t know is the only answer we can be sure of. 

But for those who have kids who enjoy going into a toy store – and those whose livelihood depends on it – we can just hope that our small businesses make it. 


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