Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — During the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses have had to change how they did business whether that be enforcing social distancing rules in their business, working from home or even changing their business model.
Over the past year, they have adapted and persevered.
According to Lisa Oetken, the director of Main Street Mt. Pleasant, businesses have adapted and stayed alive, with only a few businesses closing down … none due to COVID-19.
“If you look at 2020 as a whole it was kind of rough but they held their own. We only lost a few businesses, and it wasn’t due to COVID. It was more due to personal reasons of the business owner,” Oetken said.
“I wouldn’t call it booming, but it is starting to come back, and more people are shopping local. It’s kind of in vogue right now,” she added.
With rules changing daily throughout the pandemic, many businesses had to rush to adapt their business and enforce the rules or risk being shut down.
However, the community rallied to support the local businesses.
“When we needed people to get out and shop local, they did,” said Kristi Perry the executive vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce. “The only way we could get through this was to support each other, and the community did.”
Perry added that the restrictions in Mt. Pleasant were lighter than some big towns, but still safe making it easier to shop local.
“It’s nice to have a small town and not have as many restrictions, but still being safe about it, as the bigger towns,” she said.
Heavy restrictions over the winter pushed many businesses to the breaking point, but with vaccines being rolled out in the early months of 2021 and state and federal imposed restrictions being lifted, businesses, with the support of the community, flourished.
With masking and social distancing being required around the state for many months this last winter, businesses had to enforce masking and social distancing in their establishments.
Mt. Pleasant Subway Manager Michelle Essex put up signs requiring patrons of the sandwich shop to put on a mask before entering the restaurant. Before the new restrictions, the restaurant had signs that recommended the use of masks.
While Essex was originally worried the new restrictions may slow business, she said she “felt more comfortable” with the restrictions in place.
'Everyone's been pretty pleasant about putting a mask on … I even asked a couple customers, ‘Could you put your mask over your nose?' and no problem,” she said.
Essex added that in the past, she has had customers leave when other customers were not wearing masks.
'It's not going to hurt anything,” she added.
For other restaurants in the area, like Jefferson Street Grill, which had already adapted to the first round of restrictions put in place in April 2020, not much changed with the tougher restrictions in fall 2020.
Tina Mathews, owner of the restaurant, said the biggest change was requiring servers to wear masks, which had previously been optional. Mathews added other restrictions, including those on when restaurants could remain open did not affect her business.
Since reopening, the restaurant has continued to adhere to the 6-foot distance requirement. Because her restaurant's booths have dividers, Mathews said she has been able to continue to use the seating areas and doesn't anticipate seeing too much of a drop in customers.
“I'm more fortunate than others because I had that in place,” she said.