Businesses in Halifax County are continuing to evolve in the face of uncertainty and hardships since the coronavirus pandemic upended the sense of normality.
With those changes, residents appear to be responding.
“I believe our community is supporting our businesses now more than ever,” Mitzi McCormick, president of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email to The Gazette.
After the original state restrictions enacted in March, and a recent increase of coronavirus cases, county establishments are still finding creative ways to conduct business.
“I have been so impressed with the way our restaurants have handled themselves during this pandemic,” McCormick said.
As one example, while eateries were not allowed to serve customers inside, many offered take-out specials and family orders — options seemingly popular with the public.
Some businesses, as McCormick pointed out, have stepped up to serve the community. In the case of Springfield Distillery, the operation made hand sanitizer for businesses and organizations. Some were donated to health and public service workers during an initial shortage.
Even with success stories, fallout from the virus and ensuing restrictions continue to deal blows to businesses. The chamber itself lost a primary fundraiser recently when the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival was canceled due to worry of what the next few months may bring.
“Losing the festival will impact the chamber, but we are fortunate to be financially sound,” McCormick told The Gazette.
McCormick explained the organization is not part of local government and receives no funding from taxpayers. Also, chamber groups were not included in the CARES funding — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed to by Congress.
“We operate and make the best use of our membership and programming dollars,” she said.
The chamber — always with a mission to serve the business community — has become a source of help and information for establishments as local owners entered a maze of uncharted regulations.
“I think the biggest impact for our chamber is putting a halt on everything we had planned and changing the way we deliver value to our members,” McCormick said.
While the Cantaloupe Festival’s fate met a demise, another chamber fundraiser will still be in full swing to bring in revenue. Sponsorships and team registrations are steadily coming in for the seventh annual Chamber Fall Classic Golf Tournament planned on Sept. 25.
The tournament was established years ago to relieve the funding pressure of the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival, McCormick explained.
Golf, a socially distanced outing in general, has been one of the sports almost untouched by the pandemic.
“We would like all involved to know that we will operate our tournament as safely as possible,” McCormick said.
The chamber relies on memberships as another form of revenue. During the pandemic, it started to offer monthly subscription for both new and monthly members, in addition to working with members on payment options and adjusting billing dates.
Those payment options are one way of thinking outside of the box, McCormick said. Another has been virtual events for members when restrictions limited the number of people gathered at one time.
While there were a few of those virtual sessions, “there’s nothing like being in the presence of other business people.”
That’s why the chamber is bringing back Business After Hours in August at Springfield Distillery. The event gives members an opportunity to network.
“I believe we can come together in a safe manner and provide these networking opportunities,” McCormick said.
More details of that event will be announced soon.