The decline in the COVID-19 virus and stimulus checks that started hitting mailboxes two week ago have been much needed relief for some businesses here.
Traffic has been noticeably heavier, and some local businesses say people are spending their economic stimulus money, producing the boost that was intended.
Brad Shepherd, owner of Heritage Kitchen in Whitesburg, said he’s seen an increase even before the stimulus, but it’s even bigger now.
“A lot of people are spending money, and we’re having a lot more dine-in, which I attribute to more people getting the vaccine,” Shepherd said. “Business is way up.”
So far, about 40 percent of adults in Kentucky have been vaccinated against the virus, and the American Rescue Plan Act approved earlier this month put $1,400 per person into most people’s pockets. For a family of four making within the income limits, that means an extra $5,600 after a lean year with layoffs and often no unemployment.
At Maverick Tires at Kona, owner Maverick Cook, who is also a county magistrate, said the money has definitely boosted the economy.
“I think a lot of people invested that money wisely. They’re getting oil changed and stuff before they take their family on vacation. They’ll talk about it while they’re getting their oil changed.”
They’re spending the money, as the bill was intended, instead of saving it, he said.
Not everyone has seen an increase. Gwen Christon, owner of Isom IGA, said people have been buying food anyway, so the stimulus hasn’t much effect on her business.
“I haven’t had a big increase or anything like that,” she said. “My business is pretty steady.”
Just up the road at The John B. Adams Store, owner Dana Richardson said she closed her store for two months during the worst of the pandemic and only offered curb service. Surprisingly, she said, the closure didn’t make that much difference in money.
The store is the only place in the county where people can buy high-end shoes and boots, and work wear. People kept ordering what they needed, and Richardson and an employee kept carrying them to the cars. “It was tough. That’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.
“Actually, we’ve done pretty good before this came out. Of course, it’s been busier since the stimulus came out, but we were holding our own,” she said.
But there’s more to the recovery than just money, Richardson said. The store has been open since 1946, and there are regular customers that she also considered friends. She didn’t know if some of them were alive or dead after a year of COVID-19.
“We’ve seen people this week that we haven’t seen in a year,” she said. “I believe I’m just about as happy to see them as I am to see them trade.”