Retailers ride wave of upheaval

Tony Grove, owner of Tony’s Kingdom of Comics, and pup Neddard wait for customers at the shop in Keizer Village on River Road North (KEIZERTIMES/Lauren Murphy).

COVID-19 has caused a substantial amount of uncertainty for people all over the globe for a number of reasons, and small business owners are a handful of the people at the forefront of that uncertainty. 

When Gov. Kate Brown ordered the shut down of all dine-in restaurants, Teresa Munoz, who has owned Los Dos Hermanos for more than two decades, was forced to layoff five of her employees and only able to provide takeout and delivery service.

“We’re having a really hard time right now. We’re just taking it day-by-day and hoping to break even,” Munoz said. 

Despite the restrictions, Los Dos Hermanos is still in operation from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., hoping to drum up more business until the social distancing orders are lifted. 

“I can’t wait until we open again, but we need the support. I don’t want to close,” Munoz said. 

Jessie Hartwell, owner of Keizer Florist, also had to layoff two of her part-time employees. As a small operation, Hartwell is currently the only one working. But she admits that she is just glad that she has the ability to work. 

“It’s been a little tough, but there are people that have it far worse than I do,” Hartwell said. “I’m really just winging it right now, but I’m still getting some good business and still making a living.”

Hartwell is still allowing foot traffic through the store and requires people to stay six feet apart, but the majority of her customers come via deliveries, or customers picking up their orders at the drive-thru. 

Although overall numbers are down, Hartwell said her Easter sales were above average and expects to have an increase in numbers around Mother’s Day. 

While Hartwell is counting on having an uptick sales on holidays, Garrett Jenks, a manager at Dan’s Pawnshop, admitted that his business may be down a little bit, but that the store is selling a couple of their items at a particularly high rate. 

“We have noticed much more of an interest in our firearms and ammunition because people are concerned,” Jenks said.  

According to Jenks, 99 percent of the transactions at Dan’s Pawnshop are in the store, which is why they adhere to strict social distancing regulations. 

Fortunately, Dan’s Pawnshop is still operating under usual business hours and they haven’t had to let any of their employees go. 

“Our numbers are down a little, but when stuff gets back to normal, I think we will be okay,” Jenks said. 

One man that can’t wait for things to get back to normal is Tony Grove, owner of Tony’s Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles. 

The comic industry as a whole is currently in a world of hurt due to the coronavirus, especially since Diamond Comic Distributors — the company that supplies monthly comics to retail stores in the U.S. — announced that they were refusing to accept new content from the industry’s largest publishers, like Marvel and DC.

“The coronavirus has had a domino effect on the entire industry. There will be a lot of Ma and Pa stores that won’t make it,” Grove said.

Grove is running the store by himself and, although he is offering curbside service and orders via phone call or Facebook, his business is considered “non-essential,” so no patrons are allowed in the store.

According to Grove, not being able to have customers in the store has been one of the biggest detriments to his business.

“People like to come into my store to look and touch stuff. Now, that’s no longer an option,” Grove said. “I’m having to work four times harder for about 10 percent of the normal income I would get.”

Although his store is in crisis mode right now, Grove is incredibly thankful to the people that have been coming to his shop for years.

“The only reason I might survive is because of my loyal customers,” Grove said.