Pandemic, demonstrations challenge small businesses

WICHITA, Kan. – In east Wichita, Section 37 is back open after it closed its doors for eight weeks.

The store sells women’s clothing and focuses on a personal shopping experience. The shop’s owner, Betty Johnston, was frustrated when she had to close. She says she typically has fewer than 10 people in the store at all times.

Johnston was worried that nation-wide disruptions in the supply chain would delay or cancel deliveries for future merchandise. She was relieved when she found out she would get all of her merchandise but, she says, other stores won’t be so lucky.

“A lot of the factories are in New York and California where obviously, this was heavy, so COVID really took over and they weren’t allowed to work. So the processing of your summer deliveries, which are June and July deliveries, may not be available,” Johnston says.

Johnston utilized social media to make a few sales during the closure. She posted pictures online so customers could make purchases. Then she offered curbside pickup, delivery or shipping to customers.

Temptation Flower Shop in north Wichita stays busy in the spring and summer, but 2020 is the exception. The shops owner, Claudia Avala says wedding and events that typically fill the schedule are canceled or postponed.

Temptation is also one block north of Arkansas and 21st Street, which has been a meeting place for demonstrators recently. Businesses along 21st had damage to windows and doors. On Tuesday night, demonstrators broke into QuikTrip and looted the store.

Avala says she’s afraid demonstrators will move north and break into her business or damage her building.

Darnel Marley is a designer at the shop. She leaves around 5 p.m., even if the orders are not done so she can get home safely. Workers say the demonstrations do not reflect the neighborhood, but they are still turning away business.

“People are hearing that there’s gunshots and they’re not wanting to come out here and take a chance,” Marley says. “Even driving through the intersection. They’re scared of random gunfire, someone coming and accosting them as they’re driving through or even in the parking lot, because we are just down the street.”

Temptation Flower Shop closed for one week out of precaution for COVID-19 and some workers did not work for more than two months. The shop takes orders over the phone and offers doorstep delivery to give customers a chance to purchase flowers while also staying home.

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