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Downtown Lynchburg sees impact of the pandemic one year later

Small businesses hope overwhelming support will help overcome COVID-19

COVID-19 business impact on Lynchburg
COVID-19 business impact on Lynchburg

LYNCHBURG, Va. – One year into the pandemic, and like everywhere else, the Hill City has seen its fair share of struggle.

The Downtown Lynchburg Association released their 2020 annual report to show the impact.

Ashley Kershner, executive director, said small businesses have suffered.

“[With] that said, when we look at our colleagues across the country and what their downtowns are enduring, I’m actually very proud,” said Kershner.

Through their recovery initiative, the association created a gift card program, giving away $45,000 so far to spend at 40 participating businesses. The nonprofit also established takeout patios and other promotional content to help concerned owners.

Deborah Keeling, owner of Accents Flags and Gifts said she had a rough start to 2020.

“I kept thinking every month, ‘okay, this will pass. This is just a little thing.’ Well here a year later, it didn’t pass,” said Keeling.

But things took a turn and she saw a 40 percent increase.

“I’ve been here 31 years in business, and we had the best November and December we’ve had in those 31 years.”

Keeling and other owners credit people wanting to support local businesses.

Kathy Shaw, owner of Beeswax Candle Co., relies heavily on online sales and says revenue jumped 50 percent at the start of the pandemic.

“I think the reason was that people found comfort in candles. We had customers from all over the country who called us and emailed us and said, ‘we want to support you. We’re doubling our order because we want to see you stay in business,” said Shaw.

When it comes to online sales, Ben Noyes can’t say the same. Noyes owns Georgia’s Subs, Salads & More and leans on the lunch crowd.

He only opened in January 2020 and had to lay off employees because he lost half of his business.

“A lot of it was people working from home instead of coming downtown to work,” said Noyes.

But loyal customers kept him afloat.

“We’ve had customers come and give us a $50 bill and bought one sandwich and said, ‘I want you to keep it because I want you to be here once this is over,” Noyes added.

Kershner believes the overwhelming support will help the Hill City overcome the pandemic.

“I think they’re going to see the rewards of those efforts this year as everything reopens.”

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.