‘We are doing very well’: Small businesses find success despite pandemic

‘We are doing very well’: Small businesses find success despite pandemic

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Despite the challenges many small businesses have faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some local businesses said they have managed to survive, and in some cases, thrive.

“We are very blessed and lucky,” said Carmen Tucker, manager at Candle Cabin off of Vaughn Road. “I know there is a lot of businesses in the community who have not been as lucky as we are.”

When the pandemic hit in March, Candle Cabin, like many other businesses, had to close for a little over a month. During that time, they relied on curbside sales to stay afloat. But unlike many other small businesses who took a major financial hit, Candle Cabin said they didn’t skip a beat.

“We are doing very well,” Tucker said. “Especially during the holidays. We didn’t really know what to expect but it’s been really good.”

Candle Cabin has been in businesses in Montgomery for 50 years. The employees said without the help of their loyal customers, they may not have been so lucky.

“We’ve been very fortunate that they (our customers) have stood through everything with us,” Tucker said.

Other small businesses, however, have not been as fortunate.

In September, Yelp released its latest Economic Impact Report revealing business closures across the U.S. are increasing as a result of COVID. According to Yelp data, permanent closures have reached 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.

There is, however, some good news to report for Alabama. According to Nancy Dennis with the Alabama Retail Association, through October, retail sales in the state have increased 8.5 percent over the same period last year. A clear sign that Alabama’s economy is recovering.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% fail during the first five years, and 65% fail during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.

Established businesses that have weathered that first 15 years have relationships with customers and vendors that help them survive or even thrive during the difficult times, Dennis said.

After the March and April shutdown, certain businesses have flourished because of what they sell: Home improvement, groceries, garden materials, mattresses, furniture, etc. Dennis said these businesses have done well because people have shifted their spending from vacations and traveling to improving their homes and surroundings.

Just a few doors down from Candle Cabin is Pepper Tree Steaks and Wine. Another business that says they too have done well during the pandemic.

“We have done wonderful here,” said Rod Rudolph, General Manager of Pepper Tree Steaks and Wine.

Rudolph said drastic changes made to their businesses model is what has kept them doing so well.

“We came up with many ideas like serving family meals, curbside, (and) going online,” Rudolph said. “Coming up with new menus, new food ideas, (and) new things to make it affordable for the person that’s in the home that may have lost their job.”

He said they have even come up with a show called “Wine Time” that allows their customer base to take part in a virtual wine tasting.

“We have done good, and are still just trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Rudolph said.

Dennis said restaurants have born the brunt of the downturn associated with the pandemic, but that places like Pepper Tree Steaks and Wine have thrived because they were already geared for ready-to-go meals. Plus, they sell meats that people can grill or prepare at home.

Dennis added that the pandemic has heightened the awareness that when you buy from a small, local business, you are keeping your friends and neighbors employed.

Small businesses account for 99.4% of all businesses in Alabama and employ 47.5% of Alabama’s private-sector workforce.

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