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How is coronavirus affecting Hillsdale businesses?

A lot of changes in a short amount of time

[Posted March 24, 2020]

It’s been just over a week since the imposition of the first measures to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. For the next few weeks at least, Oregon residents are ordered to stay home, schools and many business are closed, and toilet paper has become a hot commodity as well as a ubiquitous internet meme. Those are all big changes, but possibly even bigger are the changes to our business landscape here in Hillsdale. Patrons at restaurants, bars, coffee shops and pubs are now prohibited from eating and drinking on-site, limiting service to take-out or delivery only. Many other types of businesses have closed or severely curtailed their operations to protect the health of both employees and customers.

Even before the most restrictive rules went into effect, many Hillsdale merchants were seeing less traffic and fewer sales. Mike Roach, owner of Paloma Clothing, says, "On March 2nd, it was like someone flipped a switch and we saw a sudden decrease in the number of customers in the store, and in the number of sales."

At first, business owners hoped to remain open with some modifications to their operations. Now, many storefronts in the commercial district have closed indefinitely or are concerned that they will not be able to hang on much longer.

Paloma Clothing had planned to re-work the annual spring sale, spreading it out over a few weeks rather than the usual four days to keep the number of shoppers down at any one time and to allow for more space among customers. This past weekend, Roach locked the doors and doesn’t know when he will be back to open them up again.

At Baker & Spice, which saw an increase in the number of special orders cancelled or quantities reduced beginning in early March, seating was initially re-arranged for more space between patrons seated at tables and employees wiped the front door handle every ten minutes. With the ban on eating-in now in effect, you can still order your Katie Bun, turkey and chutney sandwich, or latte, but it will be to-go, ordered and pre-paid online or by phone.

Merchants are taking it one day at a time and hoping that anti-coronavirus measures will be successful so that life, and business, can return to normal as soon as possible.

If Portland experiences complete closures of shops and restaurants, as have been instituted in some European countries, things will be even more tight for Hillsdale businesses remaining open now. Roach points out that larger stores such as Fred Meyer are probably not hurting for customers who may be stocking up in case of illness or self-quarantine, but our small local businesses and their employees face significant challenges. He says, " If people are trying to limit their exposure, keep in mind that local businesses really value their support." In other words, stay safe, shop close to home.

Valeurie Friedman


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