Business in Pierre, South Dakota has not been as usual.
As the world fights the coronavirus, local places fight to keep their heads, and the heads of those depending on them, above water.
Monday, Gov. Kristi Noem signed Executive Order 2020-04. The order put into writing what Noem, and many of her colleagues across the nation, have been asking of everyone for a couple weeks now.
It reiterates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hygiene guidelines, asking people to review and practice them, while also asking businesses across South Dakota to adapt to the times.
“Suspend or modify business practices as recommended by CDC guidance that involve 10 or more people to be in an enclosed space where physical separation of at least 6 feet is not possible,” Order 2020-04 said.
Tuesday, Pierre Mayor Steve Harding released a statement just before 3 p.m. reinforcing Noem’s directive from the previous day.
“The city of Pierre continues to recommend all citizens, businesses, and nonprofits comply with Centers for Disease Control recommendations and those directives echoed in Gov. Noem’s Executive Order regarding COVID-19,” the release opened.
Around town, there doesn’t seem to be any less semi-trailer towing or general traffic, but that is not a signal for what’s happening inside places.
Inside Northridge Plaza, the sound of hip hop and a well-lit breezeway are all that makes itself known. It is almost eerily empty but present is Ron Ravellette, originally from West River, who has been in Pierre a little more than three years.
He is the general manager of a shoe store.
“Well, we are still selling shoes and accessories,” Ravellette said. “But the sales have totally dropped off, as most retail business. We do not plan on closing. We plan on staying here for the duration.”
They are still receiving shipments and are performing deep-down cleaning with extra attention placed on the cleaning of counters and other places of contact every day, Ravellette said.
He said he is thankful for the continued business and customer support. He admits this will be a trudge going forward for everyone but eagerly anticipates a positive end of the situation.
A couple miles away from Northridge Plaza, a local pizza delivery restaurant has seen some business decline, especially from certain demographics.
“Well, it’s down a little bit,” Domino’s in Pierre’s owner Luke Deichert said. “It’s about what it usually is.”
The demographic they are missing is from people visiting from out-of-town for conventions who are staying in motels and hotels where they order food.
“A lot of the events in town, they affect us a little,” Deichert said. “Like last week, there was either a dart or pool tournament. Obviously, we lost a lot of the motel business from a lot of people from out of town for that (not here). The week before that, we were actually sponsoring the Special Olympics. We were giving out 300 free pizzas to that event. So, that was a big loss for us. Stuff like that is where we’ve taken the hit.”
Just across the parking lot from Domino’s is Heath Olson, who owns Big Tom’s Diner with his dad.
They are trying to figure out what to do; to keep the lights on; to feed people; to keep their employees earning money; and to stay in the game.
“I don’t know what to do other than try to do everything in my power to keep people safe,” Olson said. “Keep the lobby safe from everything. Try to get as many people around here, that want to come out and eat as possible and do the curbside service or the carhop service. Try to keep everybody with a job.”
He said he wants to figure out how to have maybe the west side of the building’s parking lot facing the front window for carhop service and the east side for curbside takeout.
“I’ll do everything in my power to keep the hours in here, open as long as I possibly can,” Olson said. “Get as much traffic through here as we possibly can and support our community the best way that I know how.”
It is difficult to stay open without the lunch and dinner rushes they were accustomed to.
“We have cut some hours, when it comes down to it,” Olson said. “A lot of these people, you know they rely on this job, and a couple people that do work for me have gotten laid off from their other jobs. I want to do everything in my power to keep this place open and support our community in the best way I possibly can.”
Closer to the center of town, Pam Metzinger, owner of another local restaurant, Branding Iron Bistro, is also trying to figure out the best way forward.
“I did call the city of Pierre to see if they were taking any action in the near future,” Metzinger said. “Right now, with everything being indecisive and obviously everybody being in the positions that they are, the biggest thing that they stressed, which we’ve been doing, is trying to take into consideration everything the governor has put out as far as regulations and suggestions from the CDC. So, right now, we are making more changes inside pertaining to that, with the social distancing. We are measuring off tables and seats. We are encouraging, obviously, carryout and delivery.”
With measuring tape in hand, taking a brief respite from cooking and manning the register, Metzinger moved tables and chairs around to create more distance for if people who do want to sit a spell.
“The thing I worry about, you know obviously, is if people are afraid they aren’t going to come in, and I totally respect that, but I just don’t want backlash because we are open (for dine-in),” Metzinger said.
In his release, Harding acknowledged these are some tough times, but he also wanted to encourage people, to both wash their hands and to support each other, including local business.
“It’s important that we continue to support each other. That means supporting our local businesses, taking care of our personal health, and checking in on neighbors, friends and family. This situation remains dynamic and the city will continue to reevaluate processes and adapt as the situation evolves,” Harding said.