Small businesses work hard to serve their community

A+worker+at+the+Ye+Olde+Donut+Shop+checks+out+a+customer+on+Wednesday+morning.

Ryan Ash

A worker at the Ye Olde Donut Shop checks out a customer on Wednesday morning.

By Catherine Pavilionis, Contributing Writer

In a time filled with so many unknowns, one thing a community can hope to rely on is the small businesses that provide their daily cup of coffee, health or beauty appointments or the special dinner they can share with loved ones. With quarantine and new restrictions set in place by the Center for Disease Control, going to visit favorite shops or restaurants may look quite different now. Their operations for best serving their customers have shifted as well.

Amanda Baer, a nationally published hair artist and owner of Something You Salon and Spa, originally worked very extended hours. She said they started the morning opening the spa at 6:30 a.m. and closed at the end of the night around 10 p.m.

When COVID-19 hit, Baer and her team found themselves having to extend their hours, so they could sanitize their space even more than before. This work put them to the test.

“We’re hopefully going to get through this soon. If we follow the rules and we’re doing what we’re supposed to as businesses, we’re setting a good example for our community and hopefully we can keep things under control,” Baer said.

Of course, the journey has not been smooth-sailing when making sure all the new rules are implemented. As a source of support, Baer turned to coaching groups through social media.

“Just having a group to be able to reach out to that is going through the same things and to bounce ideas off of has been a really big help,” Baer said. “Just to know that I have a support system through all of the craziness.”

To deal with the pressures of disagreements or impatience with these guidelines, Baer said she recommends people, “Extend grace wherever you go. The best thing we can do as humans is just understand the journeys that we’re all on and just to have grace when we go into places and to be more understanding and patient.”

Colin deBlouwe, general manager of Ye Olde Donut Shoppe in Champaign, voiced similar thoughts on the virus and the importance of solidarity. 

Kaitlin Mikrut

“Every week has been a little bit different during these times,” deBlouwe said via email. “Focus on the things you can control. The best advice I would give to the people is to wash your hands / wear a mask / stay at home if you feel sick. We need people to care more about their neighbors than themselves right now.”

Similar to Baer and deBlouwe, Just Bee Açaí owner Emma Reinbold emphasized the importance of taking refuge in the supportive group rallying around her.

“Honestly, the first ‘resource’ that came to mind that has helped carry us through COVID is the community. Central Illinois has proven time and time again to show up when you need them the most, so we had an overwhelming peace with that in mind as we entered this uncertain season,” Reinbold said over email.

Speaking on advice that has been key for her during this time, she suggested that business owners should lean into other small businesses during this time.

To show her support and solidarity, Reinbold collaborates with other small businesses through use of their ingredients or selling of their handmade goods, offering her customers the chance to appreciate the craftsmanship of local artisans.

“This community is just waiting on their toes for opportunities to support small local businesses; if you give them the chance in a way that meets their needs, they WILL come whether you are ready or not!” Reinbold said.

Reinbold, as well as Baer and deBlouwe, look confidently to the future with ready faces and big embraces. With such a supportive community ready to fully support them during this time, they said they felt prepared for whatever may lie ahead.

“There is no certainty in the world that we are living in right now, and for that, make the most of whatever unpredictable circumstances are placed along your journey each day. Feel them out fully, capitalize on them, reflect on them and most importantly, don’t let them tear you down. Let them build you up in all the possible ways. That’s all we can do right now, for the sake of ourselves as individuals and the sake of our community as a whole,” Reinbold said. 

[email protected]