Courtesy of The Bison

SEARCY, Ark. – Over the course of several weeks, COVID-19 created unpredictable changes for the everyday processes of thousands of small businesses across the nation and world.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as of April 3, 24% of small businesses had temporarily shut down in response to COVID-19, and 43% believed they had less than six months until a permanent shutdown was unavoidable.

While these numbers might seem daunting, businesses — both local to Searcy and beyond — have created additional ways for people to support their businesses in this time.

The Natural Food Store in Searcy started making its own hand sanitizer with aloe vera gel, alcohol and essential oils to sell in response to the virus.

“We made it to fill the need we saw, and it has sold like crazy,” junior Cassie Weaver, an employee at the store, said. “It works great and smells really good too.”

Weaver said the store is open normal hours but is encouraging people to take advantage of curbside pickup and home delivery options. She said what is most helpful to the business during this time is for customers to continue doing their regular grocery shopping with them and choose to get immune support items there, as well.

In response to the virus, several local Searcy businesses, such as Midnight Oil, Burrito Day and Wild Sweet Williams, have partnered with Sunday Cool, a screen printing and design company, to create T-shirts.

“They decided to partner with many different small businesses to generate some extra revenue in this difficult time,” senior Valerie LaFerney, an employee at Midnight Oil, said. “They are taking orders for custom shirts, printing them, shipping them and then splitting the proceeds with the local business. They set it up to be extremely easy for local businesses to partner with them.”

LaFerney said orders will be available until April 15, and then they will be shipped to their owners.

In addition to figuring out how to stay afloat as a business, senior Emma Grace Taylor, an employee at Burrito Day, said this local restaurant has also been attentive to ways they could help their employees and community.

Taylor said when Burrito Day decided they needed to temporarily close their doors, they were mindful of their employee. They offered any leftover food to their staff and also extended the offer to people in their community who they knew could benefit from it.

“They’ve done a really good job handling it that way by being cautious and also really caring for us,” Taylor said.

Aside from purchasing a shirt or product specific to the coronavirus outbreak, small business employees shared additional ways for anyone to help out.

“I personally am supporting small businesses right now by being mindful of ways I can contribute to their needs and praying for their owners and workers,” Weaver said.

Weaver said she continues to buy coffee and food from places that are still open for to-go orders.

“We have been seeing people buy gift cards, and that is a great way to support a small business right now,” LaFerney said. “We have also seen people tipping very generously. Others have made a point to thank us for being there and having a smile on our faces. All of those little things really make a difference.”

LaFerney said it is also important that — if you do support a small business and buy a to-go order — to be considerate and cautious of the employees and others around you to maintain as safe of an environment as possible.

“I hope we are all thinking about how we can support the small businesses near us at this time,” Weaver said.

LaFerney said she has been encouraged by the number of people who have continued to support Midnight Oil and other local businesses. She said that these businesses create a sense of comfort for many people, and, if anything, they can provide a pick-me-up throughout this season.