Small business takes another hit

A pub with no beer or customers: Garry Tuckett follows the Federal Government directive and closes the doors on the Murrumbidgee Hotel. Photo: Kim Woods.

Narrandera shire clubs, pubs, gyms, restaurants and cafes have taken a massive hit as the pain threshold for businesses is lifted in the war against COVID-19.

The town has been left reeling with jobs lost as doors slammed shut on Monday and business owners fearful of their long term survival. But for some local retailers there has been an upside with a massive surge in demand for food products, freezers and bread makers.

On Monday, pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops), gyms, indoor sporting venues were closed, with restaurants and cafes restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery.

Religious gatherings or funerals were allowed to go ahead with social distancing measures in place of one person per square metre.

This came on the back of confirmation over the weekend from Murrumbidgee Local Health District of the first positive coronavirus case at Albury-Wodonga among 538 people tested.

At Narrandera Gourmet Meats, panic buying resulted in half a tonne of sausages changing hands in a few days and the demand for mince outstripping supply. Owner and butcher Steve Quinn has been hamstrung by the high saleyard prices for cattle and is worried about the long term survival of his business.

“With customers freezers now fully stocked, we will have limited sales and cash flow over the next few months will decrease significantly,” Mr Quinn said.

With the potential of having to close the business following decreased patronage, Mr Quinn is confident that annual leave entitlements will satisfy himself and his staff.

Whitby’s Betta Home Living owner Trevor Whitby describes recent business activity as being like the lead up to Christmas with freezers and bread makers walking out the door.

Despite the increase in business, Mr Whitby is confident in his stock supplies and believes the business is well organised to handle any shortages in the short term. He appreciates the benefit of owning another store in Leeton and having the ability to move stock between the shops during this time of uncertainty. The business has employed social distancing regulations and Mr Whitby ensures all staff are complying.

Ray and Sharon Buchanan were preparing on Monday to close the door’s temporarily of Café Shazaray. They rely on the business from the local elderly and travelling public. Mr Buchanan said the level of uncertainty during this time was limiting, especially for small businesses trying to plan and maintain profitability during the outbreak.

Following a temporary closure and depending on future restrictions, Cafe Shazaray will re-open to provide take-away only services to customers, however Mr Buchanan doubts the profitability of this.

Apart from a spike in bread sales, the Narrandera Bakery owners Kim Tremble and Margaret Jensen are yet to experience any significant changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the uncertainty during this time and to minimise risk, the pair has further encouraged staff to be vigilant about hygiene and have separated chairs and tables in the dining area. There has been no significant decrease in business and Mrs Jensen and Mrs Tremble have noted their elderly patrons are still amongst the regular customers.

“We have moved and separated chairs and tables to spread people out, however our customers are still joining tables together and dining in groups,” Mrs Tremble said.

Having the Manildra Group mill in town has been an advantage for the bakery, with many other businesses having supply shortages.

Looking into the future, Mrs Jenson expressed concern about business decreasing, especially when supporting a number of staff members.

From Monday, Narrandera Bakery offered take-away services only pending further updates.

The Red Door Cafe owner, Justine Nielsen is keeping a positive outlook and performing business as usual. Mrs Nielsen has noted a slight decrease in business, however she has made sure to maintain high morale with her staff and customers. The Red Door Cafe will remain open providing only take-away services.

Yarn by the River owner, Julie-Anne Rowe is thankful for her supplement income as a primary school teacher. Mrs Rowe has noticed a decline in her business as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and has turned to virtual methods to help her business. She is developing her website for Yarn by the River as well as using social media tools to promote her services and products.

East Street Hair Studio owner Rita Wilkie is yet to see significant impact on her business. Mrs Wilkie’s clientele have kept all of their appointments and don’t seem to be distressed by COVID-19 yet. To optimise hygiene practices and to comply with social distancing regulations, Mrs Wilkie is offering to wear a face mask while attending to her clients. She has removed magazines from the public area and ensures not to share any equipment between clients.

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