Without a clear end in sight, weathering the pandemic storm has been difficult for many. Disillusionment and fatigue make it difficult to keep moving forward, especially for those with businesses that rely on in-person interaction. For thrift store manager Heatherly Wakefiled and record shop owner William Dantzler, finding resilience during COVID-19 has been vital.
Challenges During COVID-19
Resilience during COVID-19 is much easier said than done. Navigating how to remain safe while making a living and staying sane is quite the balancing act. For Wakefield, this is even trickier with a child.
“The biggest challenge has been balancing work with keeping our toddler 100% quarantined,” Wakefield said. “My husband continues to run his bookstore, by appointment, and now that I’m back at work, we’re juggling shifts to keep her at home.”
Dantzler closed the doors of his record store back in March and has not reopened since. Although this has hindered his earnings, the most challenging part has been other’s reactions to the pandemic.
“As the pandemic went on, all sorts of varying opinions began to arise, and people started being very dismissive of the guidelines,” Dantzler said. “We had to remain steadfast in our decision because, despite the opinions of the masses, we were watching the numbers and still feel that we’re not out of the weeds. Sticking to your guns to protect yourself and others while losing money and getting pressure from all sides to “get back to normal” has been difficult.”
There have been some unexpected benefits for both Dantzler and Wakefield during these uncertain times. Wakefield has had additional time to connect with her child and to “binge-read” one of her favorite authors. Dantzler has had time to explore his creativity and his place in the world.
“I’ve personally enjoyed the opportunity to shift focus and work on creative projects I had on the back burner,” Dantzler said. “I feel like everyone has used this time to reinvent themselves and reimagine how society interacts. It’s encouraging to think that we are moving towards a new and better version of ourselves.”
Business During COVID-19
Although Dantzler and Wakefield have found ways to cope personally during the pandemic, managing the impact to their businesses has been more difficult.
“We currently have a deficit, which we’ll try to overcome for the rest of the year,” Wakefield said. “We’re being very cautious about opening, keeping morning visits by appointment only, for older customers and the medically fragile, afternoon appointments with limited number of people in the store. Otherwise, we’re keeping an eye on how things are progressing.”
Dantzler’s store has records and merchandise that can still be purchased online. However, the transition has significantly slowed down business.
“We were on a trajectory to do a great amount of business this year, so it has definitely slowed that momentum, but the fact that we are able to buckle down and weather the storm is very reassuring,” Dantzler said. “If we can survive this as a business, I feel confident to take on anything the future holds.”
Resilience During COVID-19
For Dantzler and Wakefield, staying the course despite obstacles has been challenging. Aside from navigating shifts in their business, they also struggle with others’ apathy during this pandemic. Wakefield has been surprised by the “lack of caution” and care from the others. Dantzler feels similarly.
“Some people seem so hung up on their own opinions that they are willing to sacrifice the greater good of their community rather than experience the mildest discomfort,” Dantzler said. “[This pandemic has] really has shown people’s true colors.”
Focusing on what they can provide their customers and those around them has helped Dantzler and Wakefield persevere. Although Wear has reopened, Wakefield continues to put her customers’ safety first, finding alternative ways to conduct business.
“I’ve done a bit of sales through online efforts, which I [am utilizing] after reopening,” Wakefield said. “[We are] more accommodating of those who are cautious about shopping in-store, and sanitation practices have definitely improved.”
Dantzler has no plans to reopen at this time. However, the pandemic has helped reaffirmed his business’s role in the community.
“We will be what we always have been: Macon’s source for music and a hub for alternative culture,” Dantzler said. “How we interact with our community may go through changes, but our mission does not waver. As an artist, I’ll keep on my personal journey in honing my craft and continue to share it with the world; however, I can!”
Beyond COVID-19: The Future of Small Business
How small business operates in our society has been forever changed by the pandemic. As small business professionals, Dantzler and Wakefield have chosen to embrace this shift and the unique lessons learned during this time. Wakefield discovered just how crucial universal internet access is not only for small businesses but for everyone.
“The internet is a necessity, for both work and school,” Wakefield said. “It should be readily available for everyone, if not free than for a minimal amount. I do everything by tethering my WiFi from my phone–my plan gained additional tethering data, which is the only way we were able to do more work at home.”
For Dantzler, the pandemic has strengthened his belief that we can help each other weather the storm. He sees this sense of community as key to the survival of small businesses and us as a society.
“We all face tremendous pressure to focus on making money and being productive,” Dantzler said. “In our society, it ultimately means survival. It’s important to remember to slow down every once in a while and take care of yourself. If you have the privilege to escape that rat race without experiencing the slightest discomfort, try to help those around you who do not share that privilege. Rising tides raise all ships, and we owe it to ourselves to love and support each other as much as possible at all times.”
If you enjoyed this piece about resilience during COVID-19, check out early installments in the series: #PandemicPerspectives: Omotola Ajibade On Balance During COVID-19 and #PandemicPerspectives: Beck and Grant on Adaptability During COVID-19
About The Contributors
Heatherly Wakefield is the manager of thrift store, Wear, which benefits Daybreak, Depaul USA’s day resource center for homeless men & women in Macon. She is also an artist with experience in special events, marketing, social media, and merchandising.
William Dantzler is a Macon native and proud local business owner. When he’s not home running his record shop, Fresh Produce Records, he is probably touring as lighting designer for Guerilla Toss. You will usually find him enjoying local music, food and drink, and the company of dear friends.