UPDATE: In His Time Books & Gifts is offering curbside pickup to customers, who are asked to make payment over the phone.
With no one browsing the shelves of Bibles or checking out the Easter tables at In His Time Books & Gifts, Jaci Cox and Brenda Spencer were restocking soaps when Cox’s cousin poked his head in the door to say hello.
Almost no customers have been inside the Christian bookstore as shops brace for non-essential business to grind to a halt for the next two weeks. In His Time, like other small retailers, will be closed during Indiana’s stay-at-home order, which began just before midnight Wednesday.
“We need to stay open as long as we can,” Cox thought before the order came, “because what if somebody needs that Bible? What if somebody needs that devotion book to get them through the day because this is a tough time? One thing they all need is God’s word.”
Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, hardware stores and other businesses deemed essential will remain open as the state races to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Restaurants and bars will still serve carryout and delivery.
But for the gift shops, clothing boutiques, flower shops and home décor stores that aren’t on the list of essential places, the next several days means worries over paying the bills.
“I was wanting people to come in here if nothing else to vent because I think that’s what we all need to do,” said Jody Cullings, owner of Heathcliff, which had kept its spring collection on display.
Other stores had already decided to temporarily close last weekend, saying they were doing their part to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases.
Local retailers were urged to stay visible by actively posting on social media and clearly advertising curbside services and appointment opportunities.
Other businesses began joining forces with the community to support essential personnel still on the job. With distribution of flowers halted, Just Because Flowers, Gifts and More partnered with a Bible study group at First Baptist Church to donate pizzas from Brothers Pizza Company to the Crawfordsville Fire Department and Dollar General stores.
“The generosity, the adaptability… the determination to be resilient is something that apparently was always there and is being put to the test,” said Crawfordsville Main Street project manager Sue Lucas, “and each business is having to make their own decisions about how they best navigate over the next several weeks.”
For Jami and Travis Harrington of Reclaimed by Grace, work will continue on customer orders, even as the store will be closed to customers during the stay-at-home period.
“Business as usual for us,” Jami said in a video posted to the store’s Facebook page.
The government is offering funding to businesses temporarily shut down over the virus. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations can apply for economic injury disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The first loans were approved within three days of applications being submitted last week, said Laura Schafsnitz, an Indiana district spokesperson.
At In His Time, Cox said she was starting to consider financial assistance, and would take advantage of any government grants.
“I want to see what the government’s going to do because, you know, you get a loan but then you’ve still got to pay that loan back,” Cox said, “and so how long is it going to take to dig yourself out of that?”
The Indiana Small Business Development Center is also offering COVID-19 resources and entrepreneurs can apply for a $100 million grant from Facebook.
For retailers deemed essential, business has been steady.
Sales have increased 25 to 40% in recent days at Stevenson’s Ace Hardware, owner Skylar Stevenson said.
“The No. 1 item we have is freezers,” Stevenson said, adding that paint sales were also brisk for customers filling up the time with home improvement projects.
Ace is offering a dedicated hour from 8 to 9 a.m. for senior citizens and at-risk customers to shop and have placed red X’s on the floor to encourage customers to follow social distancing. Curbside delivery is available and staffing has been staggered.