As Alabama’s shelter-in-place order persists, many small businesses in Montevallo are struggling to make ends meet as social distancing requirements whittle down their profits.
Loss of business from students leaving campus, combined with the shelter-in-place order has resulted in many of the small town’s businesses taking a substantial dip in revenue.
According to the Executive Director of Montevallo Main Street Courtney Bennett, many businesses have lost 50 to 70% of revenue.
For businesses that depend on customers from the University, UM’s closing has hit them hard.
“It’s pretty much killed us,” stated Falcon Art Supply owner Becky Cox-Rodgers. “I’d say the University is 90% of our business.”
It’s not just the loss of students that’s causing the art supplier to lose business. Falcon Art Supply received business from the University as a whole. Several departments including theatre, social sciences, athletics and the Physical Plant hold accounts that are now stagnant in the wake of distance learning.
“What this has done is given us basically a 5-month summer,” Cox-Rodgers said. “It’s pretty much wiped us out.”
Cox-Rodgers, who has lived in Montevallo for the last 41 years and is a UM alumna, is contemplating whether to move to a curbside delivery model but is unsure if it would get enough business to stay open.
“If not, we’ll probably be closed and then reopen sometime prior to the fall semester,” said Cox-Rodgers.
C’s Cake and Coffee house hasn’t closed their doors, but according to owner Cynthia Bertolone it has been a struggle to stay open.
“My sales are down like about 65%,” Bertolone said.
Bertolone says C’s best months for business are usually February, March and April, but with students gone she has had to lay off employees due to inability to afford payroll. C’s is Bertolone’s primary source of income.
Despite her fears of how her business will be affected long-term, Bertolone says University President John Stewart and Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost have been very supportive of her and other Montevallo small businesses, encouraging the people of Montevallo to support local business whenever possible.
“They keep saying we love you; we want you all to be in Montevallo,” said Bertolone. “I’m very grateful for that.”
According to Courtney Bennet, the pandemic may also affect about seven new businesses that were slated to come to Montevallo soon, including Slice Pizza, a hair salon and a couple of other restaurants.
“I assume those folks will probably be delayed,” said Bennet “but hopefully they’ll still open anyway.”
Bennett says its important now more than ever to support the Montevallo economy by supporting small businesses and shopping locally.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our community, but also when we support one of our businesses it’s that tax revenue that the city is able to use to provide services like police, fire [department], and keeping up the parks,” Bennet stated. “If we want to keep our town nice and have those services, it’s important make it a point to support our businesses.”
Caleb Jones is a graduate of the University of Montevallo. He has a major in Communication Studies, and minored in Multimedia Journalism and Spanish. He is a former news beat reporter with The Alabamian, and plans on pursuing a career in investigative reporting after graduation. Have a tip? You can reach him at email@example.com