Local businesses in the age of COVID-19

Since the beginning of the pandemic over a year ago, businesses have been hit hard, and many, especially small, local businesses, have taken to reworking their operations in order to make ends meet. They have faced budget cuts, significant decreases in employment and concerns over the health of workers.

Siloam Springs’ businesses are no exception. Tintos & Tapas, a Colombian cafe in downtown Siloam, has had to close on multiple occasions for being understaffed or for deep cleaning. Jasmine Allgood, the cafe’s owner, shares her experience of “when this COVID crisis kicks you and your staff on its back.” She said, “I know it could be worse and people are hurting while coping. We try and make something delicious to feed your soul. It’s the least that we can do because it feeds our soul.”

While times are currently tough, it hasn’t stopped passionate entrepreneurs from adding new life to the town. Many new businesses have sprung forth during the pandemic: Pho N Rolls, Doomsday Coffee and the Downtown Bakery have all opened up in the past year. There are also plans for a new whitewater rafting park and a 7 Brew coffee shop.

Doomsday Coffee, the latest coffee shop to be added to Siloam, is another one of the new businesses fighting for a chance in the pandemic era. Sam Heidrick, a senior psychology major, visited the coffee shop over the weekend. “I really liked the overall vibe.” He continued, “I am actually kind of glad that we have an additional coffee shop now. There have been multiple occasions on which I’d try to find a seat in Pour Jon’s, but it would be too full, so I’m glad to have another option. It’s especially nice right now because it is one of the only coffee shops in Siloam with indoor seating.”

One of the new businesses coming to Siloam is Arch and Axe, an archery and axe-throwing range that will be located in a renovated version of the 1914 Gaither Mill downtown.

Heather Lanker, a local businesswoman who is spearheading the project, said “Siloam Springs already has enough places to eat and drink; we wanted something different for people to come and enjoy.” She continued, “We have a college right here up the street, and there’s not a lot of things for them to do, so we definitely wanted to pull the community into doing some kind of activity. This is a fun, different way for engaging socially.”

Lanker’s daughter, Madison, is a junior graphic design major at JBU. She believes that it will be a huge hit and is excited about her mother’s work. “I think it will help the need for more entertainment in town because right now there’s not a lot to do besides going to the park or bowling.” Despite the difficulties that businesses across the nation have experienced in the last year, the number of new businesses being created has skyrocketed. The US Census Bureau has reported that applications have hit their highest level in a decade. “This trend is very encouraging,” said economist Joseph Brusuelas. “After a deep recession, you want a chunk of displaced workers to feel confident they can take advantage of pro-business conditions like low-interest rates and strike out on their own,” he said. “This has been one of the primary catalysts of the resilience of the US economy throughout its history.”

Photo by Katelyn Kingcade/The Threefold Advocate