Ashland’s local businesses stand together during uncertainty

Ashland%27s+local+businesses+stand+together+during+uncertainty

Retrieved from Ashland Source

Carrie Smith

As businesses across Ohio have had to close or change their operations due to preventative measures ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), some of the small businesses in Ashland are finding new ways to keep moving forward despite the unprecedented times ahead.

Vines Bakery, owned and operated by Julianna Hritz, is one of the many coffee shops and bakeries in Ashland that has been impacted by DeWine’s March 15 order to suspend all in-house service at restaurants and bars across Ohio.

Though she cannot serve her customers inside the bakery for now, that has not stopped Hritz from getting her baked goods to the people of Ashland through different ways.

Before the stay at home order took effect and Hritz closed the storefront for the time being, she had said in a phone interview that she had closed the seating area and transitioned to individually bagging items for carry-out to lessen the time of interaction for customers.

Hritz also said she was doing curbside carryout for call-in orders so customers did not have to come in and pick up their goods to allow them to minimize their interaction with other people but still be able to get their treats.

“We have also been toying with doing some more organized delivery and being able to ship out t-shirts and merchandise across the country to people that have wanted to support us that way,” Hritz said.

Since the initial interview, Hritz has since closed the storefront to “encourage people to stay at home,” according to a post on the Vines Bakery Instagram page. She did however announce one last delivery for the community of Ashland for the time being that sold out in less than a day of the announcement being published on social media, which shows the level of support Ashland has for their small business community.

Not only has the coronavirus pandemic impacted local restaurants and coffee shops, it has also affected local small retail shops as well.

Fig and Oak, located on Ashland Main Street and owned by Julie and John Mitchell, is a “new concept gift shop,” according to Julie Mitchell, that gives back a little of each sale to specific charities and causes based on the item being sold, whether it is soap, home décor, shirts, candles or other various items.

Though Mitchell and her husband have since made the decision to close the storefront for the time being like Vines Bakery, she said in a phone interview that they are still able to serve the community through their new online shop for Fig and Oak, in addition to having been “putting together care packages for medical staff and packages for kids to keep them busy.”

“We have been working hard the past couple of weeks to get everything online so that we can help the community that way just by being able to shop online from home where they feel more comfortable and safe and offering the delivery service, where I have been taking the packages to them, or allowing for curbside pickup, we’ve been doing that to, or shipping,” Mitchell said.

When it comes to their online store, Mitchell said that the concept was “all very new,” only having launched the site a few weeks ago, and now due to the pandemic, has had to transfer from store and online orders to online-only orders.

“Every day I’m just learning something new… the best way to ship, the best way to reach out to the customers to be showcasing what we can do and what we have…just trying to be more available online,” Mitchell said.

If customers want to support their favorite local small business such as Vines or Fig and Oak in other ways, both Hritz and Mitchell said that customers can do several things such as interact with them on their social media or even purchase gift cards for their businesses, whether through contacting them and sending them out through the mail or for Mitchell through the Fig and Oak website.

“People have suggested [buying gift cards] for any small business, which makes sense because we are not getting as much revenue in right now from people stopping in, but if you are a regular to a business, if you buy a gift card, then you’re going to come back and spend that money after this whole thing dies down but the company still gets the money now to use towards whatever they need now,” Hritz said.

Hritz also said she would be able to send merchandise to people through the mail as well, such as t-shirts, buttons and stickers, if they would like to purchase them but do not live in the Ashland area.

Despite these unprecedented times, not only has the community stepped up to support small businesses in Ashland, but many of the small businesses themselves are continuing to support each other and do as much as they can to help one another carry on despite all the uncertainties.

“I think Ashland is really unique in this way that we are all in it together… we truly are a small business community that everyone has just been reaching out to one another and just checking in to see how people are even just emotionally but then if there’s any physical need that we can help each other with,” Hritz said. “We have all been kind of talking through our own game plans and just kind of seeing how other people are approaching the challenges, what creative ways they are trying to overcome things.”

“I just feel a sense of calm because I know we are all going through it together and I know that they have all expressed you know ‘if there’s anything we can do, let me know.’ I know I have worked with a couple of other store owners kinda side by side on a day-to-day basis, like ‘what are you going to do today? Are you going to open or not? What are your thoughts on everything?’” Mitchell said. “Just giving each other ideas and having each other’s backs, how to move forward every day…those kinds of things have been very, very encouraging.”

For more information about how to support either Vines Bakery or Fig and Oak or for updates at this time, you can check each out on Instagram @vinesbakery and @figandoakshop, on Facebook at facebook.com/vinesbakery and facebook.com/figandoakshop or websites www.vinesbakery.com and figandoak.shop.