Memorial area businesses reflect on pandemic impacts 1 year later

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected Texans, including large and small businesses. Many remember March 16, 2020 as a day of fear of the unknown, as many had to close their doors; not knowing when they could reopen. There were businesses that couldn't survive and had to shut down permanently, while others had to pivot and make difficult decisions in order to survive. However, a year later, there's hope on the horizon.

In the Memorial community, businesses owners shared their thoughts and reflections over the past year. Valerie Koehler with the Blue Willow Bookshop remembers what she and her staff experienced. "I knew we weren't going to be open the next day, and we were actually quite busy, people were coming in and buying books, panicked buying books" Koehler said. She remembers closing down for over 6-weeks and having to creatively come up with ways to keeps sales coming in. The staff pivoted to more online sales and virtual author meet-n-greets over Zoom for book store customers.

Down the road at Robert's China, Crystal & Gifts, co-owner Andres Reavis said his family's business had to shut down for 6-weeks back in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey, but this pandemic was different. Not knowing any timeline of when they would be able to reopen left everyone in limbo, but that didn't stop them from giving back to the community they've served for many years. "We did a lot of outreach to some of our customers that are nearby and took them some happy bags. It was around Easter time. We had a lot of Easter stuff that we weren't going to sell so we went out and deliver that out to everybody, just to connect with them" Reavis said.

The restaurant industry was impacted deeply as well. Ciro Lampasas, owner of Ciro's in Memorial had a lot on his plate a year ago. "You're looking around at your staff, and you're thinking now what?" Lampasas shared. With over 100 employees, they relied on to-go orders and strong community support. "It's amazing how people were coming out and they were picking up to-go food. And not only were they picking up to-go food, some of them came by and said I want to open an account with you old school, and I want to start feeding some of my neighbors" Lampasas said.

The Union Kitchen in the Memorial community was also feeling the impacts a year ago. Paul Miller with Gr8 Plate Hospitality says there were many discussions with his team on how to save their employees as well as the business. It all came down to community support which is something they're all grateful for. "Building a trust within the community is something we've done over 10 years. There's still a lot of trust that's been built up over time, and for people to come out and dine with us, we just say thank you" Miller said.
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