Small Business in Michiana finding ways to survive and thrive in the Pandemic

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The coronavirus pandemic has hit almost every aspect of our lives. School is different. Work is different. How we go out to eat is different. Businesses have had to make changes to their normal operations in order to stay afloat in the resulting hard economic times, but that's not the case for every small business in Michiana. Some have found themselves not only surviving, but according to them, thriving during the pandemic.

"I'd say my sales are up 47% this year," said Joe Denton, owner of Ye Olde Tackle Box in North Webster.

Denton sells fishing gear out of his store and said his only struggle has been keeping up with demand.

"The biggest problem that we're running into is there is a shortage of tackle," Denton said. "There are certain companies that I'm not able to get tackle from."

Stores and businesses that have said they are seeing an uptick in business during the pandemic are primarily associated with outdoor activity. Al-Bar Ranch in Mishawaka sells gear for farming and working with animals. Its owner, John Eubank, said he has been surprised at how much he has been able to sell since re-opening.

"Whether it was because we were closed for that seven weeks and didn't sell much then and still needed them, I can't give you the answer for that," Eubank said "We were surprised by the boot sales."

One small business in Niles, Michigan said this year has been one of its busiest ever. The Bittersweet Pet Resort and Stables said it usually sees and increase in business heading into fall, but this year has been unlike any other.

"I want to say this might be our busiest year with trail rides," said Bittersweet Stable manger Ella Stern. "People have just been loving to come outdoors and enjoy them because of COVID. It's just nice to have an outdoor activity that you're able to do instead of being inside."

Stern said the difference between April versus now is like night and day.

"We did have to take a lot of precautions," Stern said. "Now, since it's not as strict, we have a lot more people wanting to come from back in April when we got extremely slow and almost nobody wanted to come out."

These businesses said each of them believe they are drawing more people because of the outdoor nature of their businesses. The activities they either facilitate or supply are naturally socially distant and do not require masks. They said that means people can "abide by public safety guidelines while still having fun."

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