Small Corvallis businesses have generally positive outlooks for a summer without COVID-19 restrictions

Businesses reflect on pandemic, look toward future, lifted mandates

Corvallis+Chamber+of+Commerce+President+Simon+Date+outside+of+the+Chamber+of+Commerce+building.+With+the+summer+approaching%2C+the+Chamber+of+Commerce+is+gearing+up+to+stimulate+business+and+the+economy+as+college+students+leave+for+the+summer.

Solomon Myers, Photographer

Corvallis Chamber of Commerce President Simon Date outside of the Chamber of Commerce building. With the summer approaching, the Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to stimulate business and the economy as college students leave for the summer.

Hayden Lohr, News Reporter

Many small businesses have struggled under COVID-19 and mask restrictions, which have been coupled in Corvallis, Ore. with reduced student populations, but some businesses are positive about the upcoming summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many businesses to struggle due to reduced consumer presence, various restrictions, shutdowns and supply chain shortages. 

The summer of 2020 saw multiple restrictions as cases hit a peak in Oregon, and the summer of 2021 saw some restrictions lifted, though only for a short period. 

This summer will be the first in two years without major COVID-19 restrictions in place. 

However, not all businesses fared poorly, and the way businesses were impacted varied.

“I had a good clientele, so I wasn’t really affected,” said Ian Tooth, owner of the Corvallis Meat Pie Shop. “I went up the ladder, not down.”

According to Tooth, it depends on luck and what you sell. Tooth said he was actively building clientele over the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, he still anticipates this summer to see an uptick in new customers.

“Clientele will probably increase,” Tooth said. “We have word-of-mouth advertising. We get new clients every day… I think the restrictions have been lifted, a lot more people out and about. A lot of people are glad that has happened, the world is going to go on. Not just sleeping anymore.”

The First Alternative Natural Food Co-op, which has locations at 1007 SE Third St. and 2855 NW Grant Ave. in Corvallis, faced different challenges over the pandemic.

“We experienced the big stock up in March of 2020, and the big drop off in April of 2020,” said Cindee Lolik, the General Manager of both Co-ops and the commissary kitchen. 

The big stock up refers to that period of time when people hoarded items like toilet paper, and massive supply chain shortages and people panic-buying groceries led to empty shelves in many supermarkets.

Aside from that, the Co-op experienced difficulties in managing restrictions among customers as well.

“We had to enforce the mask mandate,” Lolik said. “Sales for us have been strong for the past two years—we don’t see the changes lately to decrease our business, it will increase. We continue to do pickup and delivery for immunocompromised individuals.”

Recent events however have made things more complicated, according to Lolik. Supply chain shortages due to the war in Ukraine and rising COVID-19 case counts in Benton County are hitting the Co-op.

Lolik also noted that usually the summers are not ideal because a lot of students and professors leave town.

According to President of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce Simon Date, however, outlooks from many businesses for the summer are still good, especially when compared to summers over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Restaurants are very excited for the summer,” Date said. “Then again, I don’t think anyone is really looking at this like we are in the clear—everyone is excited for the future.”

Date noted that many restaurants were hit harder than other businesses. According to Date, a lot of retail stores didn’t have the same restrictions. People were encouraged to stay six feet apart but stores set their own occupancy limits, if any.

Restaurant capacities, however, were reduced by 50%. Date described that as a double-edged sword. 

On one hand, capacity was halved, and on the other hand, some people decided not to go out fearing that they wouldn’t get a seat, or would need to wait for hours.

“[We] are definitely looking forward to more of a normal summer than we have had over the past two years,” Lolik said.