OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the economy and companies, both locally and nationally.
Now, those local businesses are looking forward to 2021.
The City of Opelika has found new ways to allow businesses to stay open, while maintaining Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Leaders with the Downtown Professional Network, based out of Tennessee, say they found Opelika was ahead of the curve on outdoor dining and even getting creative for COVID-19 protection into the future.
“We saw some of the businesses take a larger presence online, one who even begin manufacturing the face masks as a response to COVID,” said Jay Schlinsog, the director of the Downtown Professionals Network and founder of Reopen Main Street.
Schlinsog also says Alabama has risen to the top, seeing an increase in sales in 2020 and will continue into 2021. However, some businesses, like O’Town Scoops, saw minor setbacks.
“We were closed for about two weeks, then we switched to only drive-thru. But for a while, it was only me and my wife working drive-thru, not wanting to have too many employees in at the same time,” said Chris George, manager and owner of O’Town Scoops.
George adds his business also relies on events, many of which, were cancelled.
Moving forward, O’Town Scoops plans to keep some precautions in place to make the community feel safer.
The question that remains now is what can businesses do as we get closer and closer to the end of the pandemic.
“Take from the lessons learned from this past year, that ingenuity, the way some businesses re-invented themselves,” said Schlinsog. “It’s something that was a direct response to COVID, but in many cases those businesses have emerged even stronger on the other side. And as we move forward, it’s this idea, that experimentation, and trying new things will let these businesses continue to grow.”
It remains up to each individual business on how they will determine to move forward and if they’ll keep certain protocols in place even after COVID-19.