GLADWIN COUNTY – On Friday, May 15 local business owners came together in an online group Zoom meeting hosted by the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was intended for local small business owners to socially gather and voice their own experiences, thoughts and concerns they have had since having to close or limit customer traffic to their businesses.

Many local businesses that were required by the state to close are now beginning to reopen under specific regulations. Amy Dull, owner of Flower Scents in Beaverton spoke about the importance of her business opening up for partial business but also how unclear the future is for her store.

“I’m able to be open for curbside pickup and no-contact delivery only,” Amy said. “I’m allowed to be open, but under a whole different set of standards, and also not knowing how long I will have to do that and what actual revenue I will be able to bring in with this new way of business.”

Amy believes that customer relationships have changed due to the regulations made to her business and that this has caused her to adjust her way of operating. It was an obvious choice for Amy to open her business when she was granted the ability to do so. However, the way things have changed from her “small town interactions” to more socially distanced regulations has her worried about her customer base and future revenue for the store. 

Flower Scents was able to reopen with the proper adjustments in time for Mother’s Day, which Amy refers to as the “bread and butter” for her business. 

“If that [Mother’s Day] was left out, that would certainly put a lot of businesses that are in this industry in some murky water,” Amy said.

Stacy Plude, business owner of Oasis Salon & Spa in the Riverwalk Place of Gladwin spoke about how Riverwalk, as a large complex of multiple businesses, has struggled with the loss of revenue. Riverwalk had to cut costs including utilities and business operations for its own facility due to lower revenue. According to her, the businesses within Riverwalk have come to rely on one another to draw in customer traffic. With the statewide mandates for businesses taking effect in March, Stacy recalls many hard decisions that had to be made.

“We chose to close a little bit sooner as opposed to trying to stay open a little bit longer,” Stacy said. “Because of the demographic that comes here from downstate, we felt we were being responsible by closing our lodging to people who may be coming from the [Coronavirus] hotspots.”

Stacy mentioned that Chic Boutique in Riverwalk has been looking into moving their retail to an online format as a way of adapting to current acceptable business practices. Many weddings are rescheduling and the Riverwalk Grill is hoping to set up an acceptable outside seating arrangement to increase customer traffic. 

Stacy strongly believes that local events are a large source of income for both Gladwin and Beaverton as well as every other small town. With these events all being canceled, she knows that it is going to impact the local businesses in a significant way. 

Representative Jason Wentworth participated in the meeting, speaking after hearing from the many local business owners and their frustrations. He spoke about a lawsuit that he was behind being brought to court by Michigan Legislators against Governor Whitmer’s executive order taking action without prior approval. He directed many of the issues such as Amy’s Flower Scents business relying on curbside sales to the Governor’s questionable actions and lack of approval during the time of crisis.

According to Jason, the lawsuit proposes an end to the emergency powers of the Governor so that the power will return to a consensus between the Governor and the Legislature. Once that happens, Jason believes more voices from local business owners and employees will be heard.

The lawsuit remains in court with a ruling expected as early as this week. The judge presiding over the hearing believes her ruling will not be the end of the lawsuit and that it is likely to move to the Michigan Supreme Court according to a Detroit Free Press article from May 15. 

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