On Wednesday, Gov. Brad Little issued an emergency stay-home order that included the mandate that all non-essential businesses must close. The order will last 21 days. Many businesses were suddenly faced with no choice but to close up shop.
Idaho Falls is filled with businesses of just that type. Every nail and hair salon, bookstore, museum, gym and recreational facility in the city has shuttered.
Some have tried to improvise to stay open. As per the order, restaurants are no longer allowed to have customers to dine inside. Many restaurants are suddenly offering delivery for the first time ever.
However, bar establishments whose sales come mainly in the form of alcohol, feel they have been left with no choice but to close. The owner of the Samoa Club, has never taken more than six days off. Suddenly, she’s faced with at least 21 more. She and her manager spent Thursday cleaning out the empty bar.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s all so new right now. I think everyone’s just in shock,” she said.
With no money coming in, many businesses have had to lay off all or most of their employees for the time being. Ford’s Bar has let go all of its employees, though they’ll be offered a job again when the bar reopens.
Manager Shawn Sharer says she and her coworkers are all nervous about what they’ll do for income in the meantime. Scharer spent Thursday at the bar tying up loose ends. As she talks about what lies ahead, she alternates between trying to stay hopeful and getting choked up.
“It’s terrible, but it’s OK. It sucks … hopefully, we’ll come back bigger and better,” Sharer said.
Even certain businesses deemed essential are struggling as customers stay home. Those customer numbers are likely to drop even further with the stay-home order which instructs Idahoans to “stay and work from home as much as possible.”
The manager at Idaho Mountain Trading has seen a noticeable drop in customers, mainly due to a sharp decrease in downtown foot traffic. It has been able to remain open, as it offers a number of products and services considered essential, including its bicycle shop.
“I think it’s good that we’re being proactive, but my personal concern is the economy. That’s a lot of people without an income, and I’m sure that’s going to have pretty damaging effects,” Davin Napier, owner of Idaho Mountain Trading said.
For some businesses however, sales are booming.
Melaleuca is one of the area’s biggest employers. The wellness company had a bit of a jump-start on how to deal with the coronavirus compared to some other companies — its biggest market outside of the U.S. is China, where it has a corporate headquarters, two manufacturing facilities, four distribution centers and about 30 stores. And unlike local employers that have had to close, scale back or lay off employees, business has been humming for the Idaho Falls-based company and its 1,650 or so employees in eastern Idaho.
Isaac Bottelberghe, Melaleuca’s chief of staff, said Melaleuca has been hiring people to work in its distribution center as well as having other employees from other departments work there to keep up with demand.
“From a business perspective, people all over the world have wellness on their minds … and wellness is our specialty, that’s what we do,” Bottelberghe said. “We’ve seen an enormous demand for our products. We have hand sanitizers, we have disinfectants, we have those in stock. Our sales are really through the roof in terms of demand and customers coming to us.”