Local Business Owners Face Challenges

Many remain open but essential businesses are wondering when it will end.


Business has slowed for Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy at Lake Kathryn Village, according to owner Don Zimmerman. “Before this thing started, we were filling 942 prescriptions a day; yesterday we had our lowest volume in five or six years,” Zimmerman said. “We’re probably down 15 percent on number of prescriptions but selling more medications at the same time. This could be the new low standard, but we’re trying hard to keep everyone employed.”

Zimmerman said he understands concerns about safety and limiting exposure by reducing trips to stores. Plexiglas panels shield pharmacy staff from customers. Cashiers wear gloves. The pharmacy is wiped down hourly with disinfectant.  “We have masks available for employees, however each of them decides what makes them feel comfortable,” he said.

Other retail businesses at Lake Kathryn Village are feeling the pain of stay-at-home or mandatory closure of nonessential businesses ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The statewide order to close salons and barber shops left the new owners of Salon 302 without earning potential just after Barbara Bingham and daughter Shannon leased their space from Zimmerman. He said he will forgo rent collection until the state allows reopening salons and is working with other businesses at Lake Kathryn Village to help them during the crisis. “This is tough for everybody, but it’s just really about bucking up to the situation because this could last for an extended period of time here,” Zimmerman said.

Even the steady business of routine health care is negatively impacted by the coronavirus as patients at heightened risk for complications from COVID-19 postpone nonessential doctor visits. The busy practice at Key Center Family Medical Center experienced a rapid decline in appointments, according to Dr. Bill Roes. Similar stories were heard from other health care businesses providing dental, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine and counseling services operating on a limited or emergency basis. 

For Glen Cove Repair, independent business owner Eric Moreland said his business has been affected dramatically. With so much conflicting information from various sources, he said a lot of people don’t realize they are open. Auto repair qualifies as an essential business and Moreland is following all the guidelines to remain open. “Our business is built around interacting with our customers one-on-one, and we’re dealing with the vehicles some people spend hours driving each day,” he said.

Moreland said customers voiced uncertainty about bringing their cars for servicing: Are they bringing in a contaminated car or could one of the employees be infected and in the process of test driving their car pass the coronavirus to them? “We maintain the 6-foot buffer, we wipe down the steering wheels, door handles and controls that we touch inside the car,” he said. “I ordered cases of gloves last month in anticipation and we’re easily going through two boxes a day keeping our crew and our customers safe.” Moreland said employee furloughs were unavoidable. Half his crew was impacted by the abrupt downturn, marking his first-ever layoffs for lack of business since he opened in 1999. He is more accustomed to seeing 10 to 15 percent growth annually. “My hopes are that this rebounds as quickly as it slid,” he said. “I’m looking at it that way and managing my business accordingly.”

Most area food establishments are still operating on a take-out basis, but business is way down.  “Like everyone else, our business went down hard,” said Pablo De La Cruz, owner of El Sombrero in Key Center. He said each day brings more worry and wondering how long they can last without the restaurant fully open. Half of his staff sit at home waiting to return to work. De La Cruz said he feels for his workers with mortgages and bills to pay too. “Not everyone suffers equally, so we offer a $5 taco plate to-go, and for people who can afford it, we ask them to maybe leave $5 to pay for someone else who doesn’t have any money,” he said. “If someone needs to eat, we will feed them. We must care for each other to get through this until the state says it is safe to open up all the way. For now, we bide our time and hope that day comes soon.”