Local shops face difficulties as restraints resume

Shopping locally ushers in a wide variety of benefits, from supporting business owners in one’s community to finding unique, one-of-a-kind items that are often impossible to find elsewhere. With a rising number of coronavirus cases each day, however, new restraints are bearing down on local shops in Midland, impacting the normal hustle and bustle they are used to. Nevertheless, downtown Midland seems to prevail. 

Starting Nov. 2, a process called contact tracing went into effect in businesses around Midland, requiring business owners with a high risk such as restaurants or coffee shops to keep a record of the names and phone numbers of customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, contact tracing will focus on indoor venues that allow for “close contact”, which can be defined as spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of an individual.

While these changes create an entirely new shopping environment, business owners in downtown Midland have easily adapted, creating a somewhat normal feeling for their customers. 

“There has been data that has come out about where COVID is prominently coming from and a lot of it says that almost none of it is coming from shopping,” business owner Kayla Moberly said. “That is really awesome for our business because we don’t have to worry so much about contact tracing just because people in restaurants have to go in and sit down and be in close contact with the waitress and all that. Here they’re not spending more than fifteen twenty minutes on average.”

Moberly owns a boutique in downtown Midland called Botanica Modern Market, selling a variety of items from clothing to plants. She describes Botanica Modern Market as a one-stop-shop where gifts can be found for any occasion. Moberly’s business opened almost two years ago, making it one of the newer businesses in downtown Midland. Nonetheless, she found that adapting to the coronavirus has been extremely necessary.

“For sure we did well with quarantine and COVID and all that,” Moberly said. “We launched our online store and then we had people shop online that way and we did porch drop off. We dropped off and did deliveries for a little bit. We had people drive by pickups, they could pick up at the store, so we tried to do a couple different things.”

While flexibility and being able to adapt to new situations allowed Moberly to stay successful, she believes continuing to stay cautious is the most important. 

“When we first opened back up, as a business owner it was obviously scary,” Moberly said. “We didn’t know how to do it right, how to do it to make everyone comfortable. Obviously masks are required in the store since day one. That is 100% necessary to keep us safe, to keep our customers safe. We do have hand sanitizer at the doors and at our register so that people can sanitizer before they come in, sanitize after payment as well.”

Botanica Modern Market is not the only business that observed changes due to the coronavirus. Kathe Annelin is the owner of Belle’s Bakery, a locally owned full-service bakery in Midland. Similar to Moberly, Annelin’s business is fairly new. Annelin’s bakery collaborates with many different small local businesses that help her and bring more to her bakery. When Belle’s Bakery opened, they only had a walk up window and drive-thru window open, which helped with keeping her customers safe. When she completed her walk-in area, it was a huge success for her and her customers who seem to enjoy it more. Although Annelin owns a newer business, she is still very precautious.

To help combat the virus, Annelin utilizes the walk up window and drive thru window as much as possible to minimize exposure to both customers and staff. 

“We clean, we wear masks, from day one we wore masks, gloves, sanitized, you know, even more than food business normally sanitize and clean,” Annelin said. “We’re very cautious.”

Business owners are not the only ones who noticed changes in downtown Midland. Shoppers who prefer local stores such as junior Lauren Burgard have also noticed differences.

“I think it’s been hard because [local shops] couldn’t stay open when it was the food-only places, so I think that was definitely difficult for businesses in general,” Burgard said. “It’s already a smaller shop and having limited capacity keeps numbers really small in the stores but I think, from a downtown perspective, they’ve done a really good job trying to keep people downtown and keep people going into these shops and whatnot.”

While the future is unforseen for many of these small businesses, owners and shoppers alike continue to support each other in hopes that downtown Midland will prevail.

Elegantly decorated, business owner Kathe Annelin displays various cakes and cookies created at her bakery, Belle’s Bakery. Partnered with other small local businesses among Midland, Annelin works towards creating beautifully decorated bakery goods as well as providing vegan, gluten-free, and plant based options. Recently Annelin moved to a larger space which has impacted business. “Since we moved to the larger location and COVID started, we were able to successfully get our walking area completed,” Annelin said. “People have been coming in and enjoying that. So that was a huge victory getting our walk in open for customers.”

photos courtesy of Kathe Annelin
With bright smiles, business owner Kayla Moberly and her mother stand among various greenery in their shop, Botanica Modern Market. Moberly and her mother opened shop in downtown Midland in February of 2019 where they began selling clothing, plants, and other gift items. Despite the struggles they faced this year, their hopes still remain bright. “My mom and I had gotten really excited about what the future will hold,” Moberly said. “We did overcome COVID, and we did come out still doing really well, our numbers really did compare to last year, so that was a pretty big win for us.”

photo courtesy of Kayla Moberly
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