Local businesses in Bryan-College Station have been greatly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and are anticipating the return of Texas A&M and Blinn students who impact their businesses.
Many local businesses have implemented safety precautions adhering to state and county regulations, as well as additional specific safety measures. This includes daily sanization and physical distancing within the premises to promote customer safety in the fall.
Sabi Boutique co-owner Meredith McAuliffee said she has been focusing on finding the positives during the pandemic as many small businesses including her own had to shut down for nearly two months.
"We rallied together to make sure Sabi Boutique survived the shut down and came out stronger,” McAuliffe said. “We immediately started listing every product in the store on our website. We spread good news on our social media platforms to keep the joy and happiness that wasn't always easy to find.”
With many Aggies returning in the fall, McAuliffe said she is looking forward to seeing college students coming to her shop once again.
“The fall [football season] carries most local businesses through the slower summer months,” McAuliffe said. “We miss the college students. We also employ mostly college-aged women. We love mentoring them through this stage of their lives and helping them get ready for what comes next.”
Regarding safety precautions, McAuliffe said Sabi Boutique is limiting store-front hours for sanitization, having the store professionally cleaned weekly and holding clothes for 24 hours after they are tried on and then high heat steaming them before returning them to the floor.
“We are proud members of Operation Restart — a local initiative to increase consumer confidence during an uncertain time,” McAuliffe said. “It's our top priority to keep our family, team members and customers safe and healthy during this time.”
Costa Dallis, CEO of EccellGroup which oversees businesses such as The Backyard, El Jefe, Public & Main and Burger Mojo, said the temporary closures and reduced income that accompanied the pandemic have greatly impacted his businesses.
“The community has been supportive but there are way fewer venturing out to dine and entertain,” Dallis said.
Dallis said he is also looking forward to the return of college students and plans on offering discounts and promotions to them upon their return in the fall.
“All of our business models, [and] in fact commerce in the whole community, is predicated on the demand created by Texas A&M,” Dallis said.
Tone 360 Fitness Studio owners Nayokia Lyons and Kaleigh Bowman said while COVID-19 has been difficult for their business, it also encouraged them to expand online.
“We have had the impact of losing people but it also has helped us grow,” Bowman said. “Now people who have to stay at home with kids or are not completely comfortable coming out, which is completely understandable, can now take all our classes online.”
As college students return, Lyons and Bowen said they will be offering a lower rate to all new members who join before Aug. 1.
“They [Texas A&M students] help run this city,” Lyons said. “I am nervous for the community with the spread of COVID-19 but as a small business we need them.”