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GALENA–The thriving tourism industry has come to a stand still as stores, restaurants and lodging businesses that are typically busy are closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant and bar industry in Galena has dealt with two executive orders from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The first order, announced on March 13, closed restaurants and bars for dine-in service effective 9 p.m. March 16.
Businesses around the area began planning for their next steps with many deciding to offer carry out or delivery options to customers.
The second order, on Friday, March 20, closed all nonessential businesses, which included retail stores. Hotels and restaurants were still deemed essential by the order; dine-in remains prohibited.
“It has had a drastic impact on how Galena as a tourism destination operates,” said Alana Turner, owner of Poopsie’s and Main Street Inn. “The real unknown is how long this will last and the impact that this will have long-term.”
“Tourism is the biggest part of all our businesses,” said Dianne Paxton, owner of Galena’s Kandy Kitchen. “Closing our stores has created a ghost town, but as a business owner, safety is my number one focus right now and keeping our customers and our community safe.”
Poopsie’s and other businesses have been looking at ways they can keep their employees working while still trying to stay afloat as a business.
“At Poopsie’s we took a moment to stop and assess the needs and skills of our employees and to decide how we can use that to give the customers what they need,” said Turner. “We have been looking at ways that we can keep our employees busy and allow them to work remotely as well. We will come out of this with the development of new skill sets to benefit our business in the long-term.”
Michael Steinhoff, general manager of the DeSoto House, said that his business has also been finding ways to stay open through this crisis.
“When they announced the closing of the dine-in restaurants and moving to the carry out and delivery options, it was not too hard of a change to make since we already in the past have offered carry out service,” said Steinhoff. “The main change we had was reducing some of the staffing in the restaurants to accommodate for the lack of dine-in service.”
DeSoto House has maintained its menus since the executive order was put into place, and they’ve offered a discount.
“We also continue to offer our full menu, so there were no changes in regards to the items brought into the kitchen through our vendors,” said Steinhoff. “We have a 50 percent discount for the items on our menu. It is something we thought would help out the associates that we have working here to keep them working and to bring in some income to them in terms of an hourly wage and the tips that they receive and just helping out those in hospitality in Galena. We know there are some that aren’t able to work in the hospitality industry whose hours are curtailed or cutoff and maybe that would help them as well.”
Businesses in Galena have been utilizing technology and their online presence to continue to stay busy and generate revenue for their business.
“Luckily, we had a website that was functioning already and are now giving it more attention to keep it constantly updated and to make it easier for our customers,” said Turner.
One of the changes that has been made is the utilization of new ways to promote the business as well as the utilization of a drive up window for their curbside pickup.
“We have begun using Facebook Live for comic relief and to give people something to look forward to every day,” said Turner. “Fun and happiness is our goal every day of our lives at Poopsie’s and we have made a conscious decision to keep going with some humor. We can’t have too much positivity during times like these.”
Poopsie’s Facebook Live has been featuring products available at their store and online as well as using different themes in each video.
“I am not the most technology-savvy person, so it has been fun to learn that as we go, too,” said Turner.
Kandy Kitchen has also been using different means to reach out to their customers.
“We are taking phone and online orders as of now,” said Paxton. “We have received a few orders from our loyal and local customers, but nothing compared to the walk-in business. I truly appreciate and am very grateful for every order that we do receive. It is my hope, that with Easter here soon; we will get more orders. We have our homemade Easter eggs and candy available to make Easter enjoyable for families.”
The hotel industry is also taking a hit during this unusual time, and Steinhoff, who also operates Country Inn and Suites has seen a drastic decrease in occupancy at both businesses.
Hotels are included in Pritzker’s executive order as an essential business, but the stay-at-home order has put an end to travel for many.
“On the hotel side, the shelter-at-home mandate has drastically affected the in-house guests,” said Steinhoff. “Occupancy is extremely low at this time and that is something other hotels in our area are seeing. We know there is a lot of uncertainty at this point in time, not just for the business owners, but also for the associates that we have. We have tried to keep them in paid positions at the hotel to help offset some of the uncertainty that they have in regards to their incomes.”
Galena’s Country Inn and Suites property is also facing the same strain as others in Galena, but the highway exposure helps to alleviate some of the problems.
“At Country Inn we don’t have the restaurant, so that takes out one of the elements, but there was a drastic decrease in the occupancy at that property. However, it has the highway exposure, so we do pick up some additional traffic from those performing essential services,” said Steinhoff. “We are working to keep these two properties open.”
Turner also operates a lodging business, Main Street Inn, and has felt an impact in that operation as well.
“There is more of an impact with that business since there are not a lot of ways to be creative when in-house guests are your only revenue source,” said Turner.
All businesses that have remained downtown have been thankful for the support of the community that is buying local and trying to keep downtown businesses open throughout the pandemic and to ensure solvency when the pandemic ceases.
“I think the town has done a great job in supporting our business and our associates,” said Steinhoff.
Steinhoff said that the carry out business has increased substantially since the beginning of the pandemic compared to before.
Paxton is also grateful for the community’s support.
“I am so very proud to be a part of this community,” said Paxton. “We all do out part and look out for one another to fight this terrible virus.”
“We are functioning off of local support and a lot of behind the scenes work,” said Turner. “Retail is a roller-coaster ride normally and we have always said that. This has more twists and turns, but who knows what will happen, we might have something new and more creative tomorrow.”