In the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has people staying home for the most part, businesses are being forced to adapt and reach customers however they can.
Since being shut down for on-site service at 9 p.m. March 15 as part of a statewide order by Gov. Mike DeWine, Combustion Brewery & Taproom has been able to sell carryout beer from its business at 80 W. Church St., Ste. 101, in Olde Pickerington Village.
However, by no means has it been business as usual.
Because of the statewide order and concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus, Combustion has closed its kitchen and private event space.
Owners Keith and Sarah Jackson have continued to sell their craft beers, brewed on site, but all sales are by order.
No customers are permitted inside the business, and all sales are being finalized with one of the six employees still on staff delivering orders via a cart to people in their vehicles as they file through a makeshift drive-thru.
"We definitely aren't on the level compared with what we would be if we were open, but the community has been supportive," Keith Jackson said. "We're trying to balance the health and safety of our employees and the community with customer service.
"We've had to adapt. It's really kept us on our feet."
DeWine announced May 7 that outdoor dining at bars and restaurants could resume Friday, May 15, and indoor dining would be permitted starting May 21. Social-distancing guidelines, however, are still in place.
Following the reopening announcement, Combustion posted a statement on its website saying the business has "a lot of work to do to figure out how we can safely operate within the guidelines that have been set."
"As we work to establish a safe environment for our staff and customers, we will do so with the same principles as we have throughout this situation and on a timeline that works for us and our unique business and circumstances," the website stated. "Until then, we will continue with our current online ordering system with drive-thru pickup. We thank all of our customers for their continuing support and will keep everyone updated via social media."
Since the March 15 stay-at-home order, Combustion's adjustments initially included reducing staff from about 20 employees to four.
As the carryout business has picked up, the Jacksons have been able to bring back more employees.
"The majority of our staff are bartenders and cooks from our kitchen," Keith Jackson said. "It was a very odd and terrible feeling to tell our staff we didn't have any work for 75% to 80% of them."
In addition to shutting down in-store sales, Combustion had to change the way it was distributing beer.
Because of coronavirus concerns, Jackson stopped refilling customers' glass growlers and instead began selling beer in recyclable 16-ounce and 32-ounce cans, the latter of which are referred to as "crowlers."
That plan became complicated, however, when a nationwide shortage of crowlers arose.
"Every taproom in the country, the only way for them to sell their beers was to-go," Jackson said. "We got lucky and got a pallet when we needed them.
"Basically, if we don't have cans, we can't sell our beer."
Combustion also has tweaked business hours.
Before the pandemic, the business operated from 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 to midnight Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Now, Combustion is open for order pickup from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
"We come in about four hours before our pickup time to start filling orders," Jackson said. "If things stay the way they are, we think we'll be OK."
Like Combustion, Janis Francis had to make changes at her business, The Humble Crate, Artisan Marketplace at 18 E. Columbus St., which she opened in November 2019.
She said she is using a forgivable loan administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help businesses during the pandemic.
For Francis, the $1,000 in assistance came May 7.
"It's been pretty tough," Francis said. "(The pandemic) not only affected me, but I have 50 (artisan) vendors in there and it's affected them, as well."
Francis had only one other employee at her business, but she instructed the woman to stay home for the foreseeable future because the woman is pregnant.
So now, Francis is operating the store alone and trying to find methods to connect with customers.
"I don't have my doors open," Francis said. "I'm doing shopping by appointment only.
"I also am doing curbside pickup. I do a lot of live videos from my shop on Facebook so people can see what I have and tell me what they want."
Francis also is delivering items, which range from handcrafted decorations to food such as honey and granola.
"(Sales) are down 80% to 90%," she said. "A couple of days we did really well, but those were days some of my vendors did face masks.
"They were sold out in 24 to 48 hours."
Both Jackson and Francis said the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce and its president, Theresa Byers, have been helpful.
They said Byers has provided information about resources.
Byers said the decline in customers is a major concern for businesses throughout the community.
"As you can imagine, restaurants are seeing a decline due to not being able to (offer) dine-in (service)," Byers said. "Banks have moved to appointment banking or drive-thru only.
"Real estate agents have moved to virtual tours, housing availability is down in some areas and the shift to in-person tours has presented some challenges. Several professional services -- insurance, banks, financial advisers, accountants -- have shifted to working from home with limited or virtual appointments with clients (and) customers."
Prior to DeWine's May 7 announcements, which also brought news that retail stores could reopen May 12 and barbershops and salons could do so May 15, Byers said, anxiety has been growing among local business owners who closed because they are not considered to be "essential" under the state order.
In response, the chamber has tried to provide up-to-date information for its members and the business community at large, Byers said.
"We created a COVID-19 page on our website sharing updates from the governor's office, the U.S. chamber, news from our members, especially legal and accounting services, links to information and so much more," she said.
"Most recently, we have also added a Restart Ohio page, which provides documents for businesses on how to plan for their business reopening and how to best prepare.
"We have shifted our events to virtual, held several webinars to share information about the CARES Act loans and what is available for businesses, fielded numerous emails/calls from our members and other businesses in the community on where to go for more information or how to get help, made so many connections for businesses, re-launched our Member of the Week program virtually, and we are also working on a new (human resources) benefit program for small businesses."
Additionally, Byers said, the chamber will continue to check with businesses and has created a Pickerington Area Carryout and Delivery Facebook page to promote local restaurants.
In April, the city of Pickerington began mailing letters of support to more than 600 businesses in the city and Violet Township.
Pickerington economic development director Dave Gulden said it's part of a renewed effort, which also includes enhancements to the city's website, to help business retention and recruitment.
"We want the local business community to know that we at the city care for all the businesses during this unprecedented time," Gulden said.
"Passing along distilled information on available resources while pointing out useful portals is something we can do to help."
Gulden said the letters highlight the main business assistance programs coming out of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, along with "other useful portals for information."
"This is phase one of a larger effort to perform outreach to every business in the community over the summer," he said. "Next week, we'll be supplying professionally designed posters for businesses to post in their windows.
"It will include COVID-related reopening information."
Gulden said he hopes the information and posters will help link businesses to resources and customers to businesses.
"Customers need to know who is still open as the stay-at-home order evolves and ends," he said. "In the city, we can allow temporary signs as a way to help business."
Gulden said it is "too early to speculate how damaging the lockdown was on our business community, but there are certainly strained businesses based on some feedback I've received."
He did note that no Pickerington businesses officially had closed during the pandemic, and four new business occupancy permits have been issued by the city since mid-March.
One business not struggling is Zettler Hardware, 180 Postage Drive, where store manager Doug Strawser described business since March 15 as "crazy busy."
"It's been absolutely nuts," Strawser said. "Better than usual.
"January was horrible because we didn't have a winter. In March, we've basically rebounded for everything we were done in by the winter."
Strawser said many customers have come to his store since the stay-at-home order because they planned to paint the inside of their residences.
He said sales were up about 10% in March compared with the past year, and they were about 13% better in April.
"Everybody is doing some sort of project at home," Strawser said.
"Now it's lawn and garden time, which is usually our busiest time of year."