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‘Slammed’ or scraping by, businesses catering to Easter adapt during pandemic

Florist Tammy Wallin creates Easter bouquets at Liberty Park Florist  & Greenhouse on Thursday. Because Liberty Park is considered an agricultural business, they are considered essential and allowed stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Families and friends usually gather this time of year to celebrate spring religious holidays. But this year, Easter and Passover celebrations are muted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Large gatherings such as religious services are prohibited in many states, including Washington.

Some will participate in services at home, via the internet or even in church parking lots or drive-in theaters while practicing social distancing, but secular aspects surrounding the holidays will take on a smaller part of the festivities.

The result is tough on businesses that cater to holiday purchases.

Most of these businesses – florists, butchers, candy retailers, restaurants – remain open in some capacity. Some are thriving while others struggle,

Sweet nothings

Business is down “about 75%” according to Todd Davis, owner of Spokandy downtown.

“We’re still doing delivery, and shipping of course,” he said, adding the retail store and manufacturing is closed until the economy opens back up.

Spokandy caters to many smaller candy shops, which Davis fears might struggle to regain business once the economy gets moving again.

He said the trade shows and conferences he participates in to attract business have all been canceled or postponed, and he’s looking to the future.

“The hope is that by fourth quarter, which is what we all live for in this industry, we can by August, September get strong again and be able to have just a really great fourth quarter and put it all behind us.”

Spokandy has had to put roughly 20 employees “on standby” and pare down to just a few to monitor the inventory, answer phones and get orders out.

“We’ve done this 107 years,” Davis said. “This company has been through everything. And it’s survived and sustained, and we believe we will still do the same.

“We’re just trying to make the best decisions we can to be a part of the community and to obviously stay safe and stay healthy,” he added.

Say it with flowers

Liberty Park Florist & Greenhouse remains open as an essential agricultural business. But it’s feeling the pinch as well.

“Most of the stuff where you’re seeing it is the churches,” owner Jim Alice said. “They have cut way back, you know, because they’re not having services any more.

“People can still pick up things for Easter,” he added. “It’s no fun, but there’s worse industries to be in right now.”

Alice added that the greenhouse is open, and they are doing curbside delivery, so people can pick up their seasonal plants, such as tomatoes and other vegetables.

“Order ahead, drive through and we’ll load you up,” he said.

The pandemic “cuts back on your business, but you just got to deal with it,” he said. “It’s just one of those things, kind of a new one for us. Since 1928, we’ve never run into anything like this. Nobody has.”

Alice indicated that the sunlight and temperatures in the greenhouse degrades the potential of infection.

“There’s less chance of getting anything on (the plants) than groceries,” he said. “So no, we don’t sanitize the plants. I mean, just as far as I know, no plant has ever gotten the coronavirus.”

They have the meats

Some businesses are actually busier now than they normally are.

At Egger’s Meats North, owners Greg and Jodi Traband are seeing an influx of customers preferring to avoid grocers or big-box stores and buying their Easter ham at their North Side shop, which opened in 1952.

“Our sales are elevated,” Greg Traband said. “We’re extremely busy with everything that’s going on. We’re one of the fortunate companies that can continue to work being essential. And we’re pushing forward, trying to best care of our customers that we can.”

Traband said his crew is hustling to keep up with the extra demand this year.

“What we’re finding is folks are wanting to come to us because they know where the product is coming from,” he said. “They’re more comfortable coming into the small businesses, and we’ve had a ton of our customers coming in very specifically because we are locally owned and a smaller business.”

Traband said that they don’t deliver, but have been extremely busy taking phone orders, processing them and doing curbside pickup.

“We’ve been absolutely slammed through this whole process, since it started,” he added.

Traband stressed that extra precautions have been put in place so customers can come into the shop and feel safe, including 6-foot lines at checkout stations, updating credit card machines so there’s no contact with customers and sanitizing checkouts after sales.

“Our meat cases separate us (from customers) and we can keep real good, safe, 6-foot distance,” he said.

“We’re kind of on the front lines just like health care users, and so are all the other people that are working in the food industry,” Traband said. “We’re taking the precautions to keep our crew safe and keep our customers safe.”