Editor’s Note: COVID-19 has impacted every part of our lives since it first appeared in Kansas a little more than two weeks ago.
From local shops, restaurants and bars having to drastically alter the way they do business, to shutting down many forms of entertainment, the coronavirus’ reach has been tremendous.
In the coming days, The Emporia Gazette will be speaking with local business owners and area residents to see how the pandemic is affecting their lives.
Today, The Gazette speaks with Becky Smith, owner of Twin Rivers Winery and Gourmet Shoppe.
Q How is Twin Rivers being impacted by COVID-19?
A “It is effectively just stopped our business. We do a lot of foot traffic, as well as events, as well as selling retail, and so it has effectively stopped our business in its tracks.”
Q How are you handling that?
A “We are doing a lot of limited hours, in case someone wants to come in. I’m here. We’re applying for all the small business loans that we possibly can, as information comes to us. … We have deferred loans. We have done everything possible. Main Street has been a large help in telling us what resources are available. We’ve talked to other merchants. We’re just trying to stay positive through this. and hopefully everybody plays by the rules so that we can get back to business sooner than later.”
Q How is this impacting your staff?
A “I did have to lay off all of my staff. I’m actually only here about an hour a day, and I’m only open because basically I am working on loan things for the federal government. … I have reached out by social media of when I’m here. … Some people have taken advantage and ran in to get brewing supplies or a snack, just doing the little things that they possibly can. We totally appreciate that. We have a large floorplan, so it’s easy to stay away from everybody, and we Clorox and disinfect everything between each person.
Q What is your long-term plan?
A “We are taking literally about a week by week at a time — seeing if any of these loans come through. Our local banking institution works with us. Main Street’s working with us. So, we are basically taking week by week, which I know other merchants are, too, because you can only handle so much coming at you at once. To keep everybody’s sanity, we are going with the flow.”
Q With your city commissioner role, and personally, how is COVID-19 affecting you?
A “It’s very weird, because I work three jobs, between a winery, another small business and then city commission. For me to go from having always somewhere to be … to zero, was very weird, so I didn’t know what to do with myself. I basically volunteered to help any person that needed to do any errands — my mother, if she needed something. It’s just my husband and I at home, and my husband is a firefighter, so he has to go to work. ... I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time outside. ”
Q What do you miss?
A “I truly miss my girlfriends. I miss my camaraderie on the golf course. I miss just my regulars at the winery. I miss my coworkers. I definitely miss my staff. But between social media, texting, and things, it’s helped a little bit, but I’m a person that really kind of likes people.”
Q What is something you have learned?
A “Most people are responsible and resourceful. There’s always going to be those people that go to extremes. The little things of people thinking outside of the box of trying to help people. .. I think it’s driven the fact home that you really need to support local, because in times like these, unfortunately we probably will lose some small businesses, and that’s just not the way Emporia wants to be after this.
Q When do you think things will get back to “normal,” and what are you looking forward to when that happens?
A “I’m looking forward to a regular schedule again. The first thing we’d do is see all of our friends together. I’m hoping by the middle of April. If the sun comes out, it gets warmer, people are doing the social distancing — they talk about that two week quarantine, that will be four weeks, so we should have a handle on it. I’m hoping this can be all over in about three weeks. I’m hopeful.”
Q Is there anything else you would like to share?
A “We appreciate all of Emporia’s patience while we get through this. We appreciate the little supports. Stick with us, and hopefully everybody goes back to their favorite spots after all of this is over.”