COVID-19: How the Wheeling Community Can Help Small Businesses, Restaurants

These are uncertain times for us all. Everyone is affected, one way or another — school closings; hospital overload; social distancing; empty grocery store shelves. And of course, the effects of the coronavirus itself.

Small businesses and restaurants in the Ohio Valley are being hit particularly hard right now, with more ramifications expected from the onslaught of COVID-19. Things are changing by the minute.

Valerie Piko, small business coordinator at Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), offered some suggestions to keep the lights burning in our community; get take-out, buy gift certificates and shop online.

“Several businesses are encouraging online shopping with pick-up options,” Piko noted. For example, she said, ReDecorate Luxury Furniture Consignment, a new store in Centre Market with a location in Moundsville, posted this information: “We will have free curbside, carryout items and [will] be enhancing our online and Facebook/Instagram options so that customers can continue doing business while feeling comfortable and staying safe.”

Piko also noted, “Payton’s Pretties is also closing its doors, but is offering virtual personal shopping. The Public Market announced that you can order your groceries over the phone and pull up for curbside pick-up. This is a great way to support our local farmers at this time.

“It’s so interesting to see how businesses are coming up with creative ways to drive business. Their livelihood depends on it, so they’re doing whatever they can to stay afloat,” Piko said.

“It’s so interesting to see how businesses are coming up with creative ways to drive business. Their livelihood depends on it, so they’re doing whatever they can to stay afloat.” — Valerie Piko

“For the businesses that are open, call and place an order for a gift card that you can use later. The Chamber of Commerce had a great Facebook post about this idea applying to restaurants, but you can really apply it to any business,” she added.

Mugshots, which recently opened on Market Street, commented on Facebook, “We had a great first week. Thank you so much for all of your support. Unfortunately, we unwittingly picked a very bad time to open.”

Mugshots owner Grant Coleman will fill curbside orders.

Mmm … Popcorn on Market Plaza also is “open and popping, and jamming Irish pub tunes inside and out.” Owner Dave McFarland will run that bag of popcorn out to your car or deliver to select local businesses.

Dollar General has instituted a policy where seniors — those who are at a greater risk for the virus — are invited to shop during the first hour of business, and they ask that others refrain from coming to the stores during that time.

As of Tuesday evening, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice mandated restaurants, bars and casinos to close, although take-out and delivery are permitted.

Because 24 of the 27 restaurants involved in Wheeling Restaurant Week remain open at this time, RED decided to go forward with Wheeling Restaurant Week, which started Monday, March 16.

“Since they chose to be open, we decided to move forward with the event and encourage take-out,” Piko said. “We released the following statement [Monday]: ‘During this time where things are so uncertain and there are many public health advisories, we wanted to let you know that Wheeling Restaurant Week 2020 will still continue, however, we are HIGHLY encouraging you to order ahead and get your meals to-go. It is important to still support our small businesses and restaurants in any way that we can, so ordering take-out is the safest option. While some restaurants may limit hours or close temporarily during this time, it is important to check individual business pages for their current hours and options.’”

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“Our local restaurants, along with all small businesses, are facing really hard decisions. They have employees who they’re concerned about. Most are choosing to stay open in an effort to ensure that their employees take home a paycheck. I talked to a waitress over the weekend who works for two different restaurants. She was so concerned that she may be out of work. It made me feel like we were doing the right thing by moving forward with Restaurant Week. The intent of starting Wheeling Restaurant Week was to show support for our locally owned restaurants. It seems like that might be more important now than ever before. We can support these restaurants and enjoy great food, while staying safe with pick-up and delivery.”

Piko said she encourages customers to take advantage of take-out and delivery during Wheeling Restaurant Week.

“It’s been interesting to see how many businesses are thinking creatively and making adjustments to how they do business. I believe that Good Mansion Wines may have been the first (or at least one of the first) to offer curbside delivery last week. We’ve seen several restaurants do the same including (not limited to) Later Alligator, Country Roads BBQ, Bridge Tavern & Grill, Undo’s and Vagabond Kitchen. Places like Undo’s, Tito’s Sloppy Doggs and Figaretti’s are also promoting free delivery,” Piko said.

Don’t forget the businesses that are open. Community members can order take-out to help support local restaurants.

While not Restaurant week participants, Avenue Eats is providing curbside carry-out, and Wheeling Brewing is encouraging “curbside call-ahead” orders.

In Ohio, restaurants are closed for table seating. However, you can still get a bite to eat at the Ohio Valley Mall. According to a mall spokesperson, “Pursuant to the state order, restaurants are still permitted to sell food on a carry-out or delivery basis. There are currently 17 different eateries and food options at the mall complex offering a wide variety of tasty fare. On March 19, another one joins the lineup. Chick-Fil-A will open for business, drive-through only, Thursday morning.”

Several small businesses in Wheeling have closed their doors for a period of time, including SMART Centre Market, ThrIVe, VC Wares, Ottey’s Smokehouse, Happy Goat Yoga, to name a few.

“I’ve noticed that the shops without employees or those with just a couple of employees are the ones announcing closures. I think that the businesses with several employees on the payroll are having a harder time making that decision. I think that soon the state will make that decision for them, but they’re trying to hang on in the meantime and take safety precautions. Nearly every business has a post on their Facebook page about the precautions that they’re taking to keep employees and customers safe,” Piko said.

“We have no idea what our world may look like when we get through this, but be prepared to support small businesses more than ever before when we get back to ‘normal,’” Piko said.

“I am concerned that some businesses won’t be able to reopen after such a devastating financial loss. There will be support available through the SBA and other organizations, but we can also play our part by spending our money locally.”

• Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.