Shepherdstown, W.Va.,— Almost a year has passed since a global pandemic, CDC protocols, and a government–sanctioned quarantine set a new precedent for everyday life, and local businesses are still reeling from the impacts.
One of the main characteristics that sets Shepherd University apart from other schools are the shops and restaurants that rest alongside the campus. Shepherdstown is home to dozens of shops that many students enjoy during breaks from the classroom. Just like every aspect of life in 2020, these local businesses were affected by the pandemic.
Pam Berry, owner of Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery, says that she has owned her business since 1997. While she has dealt with short-term crises, Berry claims that she has never experienced an event, “to compare to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Businesses have had to make lasting changes in terms of selling their product. The government lockdowns were meant to help shrink the level of Covid-19 infections in order to prevent a rise in hospitalizations.
While the lockdowns were meant to protect citizens, they often had the negative impact of hurting small businesses. Small stores were not considered essential; so, they had to close their doors for a limited time. Once they could reopen, businesses had to adapt to the new CDC protocols.
Shepherdstown businesses often work with Shepherd University for events. Kendra Goldsborough, owner of Four Seasons Bookstore, mentions that a part of her business is to “partner with various departments and organizations on campus, such as the Contemporary American Theater Festival and the Byrd Center, for events, lectures, and book signings.”
Those activities are great opportunities for both the students and the businesses. Due to the new Covid-19 measures, events like the ones organized with the Four Seasons Bookstore cannot take place for the foreseeable future.
The largest impact the pandemic has had on small business has been the impact on customers. While some stores have been able to transition to delivery or pickups for their orders, many stores have suffered beyond repair.
Goldsborough believes that Shepherdstown has lost around eight separate businesses during the pandemic. Most customers for the stores and restaurants in Shepherdstown are tourists and walk-in traffic. The original lockdown coupled with hesitancy to travel have created a distinct lack of tourism in the area.
Many stores are relying on loyal regulars who order online or socially distance while shopping in-person. Goldsborough praises the, “strong, loyal community” that has supported her bookstore during the past year.
At the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop, the beginning of the pandemic was especially difficult as regular customers, “stockpiled groceries and hunkered down” instead of going out to buy cakes and pastries. Luckily, Berry has noticed an increase in regulars as well as “weekend visitors as people venture out to shake off cabin fever.”
Both Goldsborough and Berry have felt the loss of Shepherd University students from their usual customers. Berry said that the amount of Shepherd University customers has “disappeared over the cliff” during the pandemic.
The local businesses are a vital part of the atmosphere in Shepherdstown and at Shepherd University. It is important to show support for these local businesses during these times.
Next time you are craving something sweet or looking for a new book to read, look no further than the stores that are just down the street.