As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Tri-Cities region, small business owners fear another shutdown

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, small business owners fear another shutdown is on the horizon.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has been adamant about not shutting down the Tennessee economy for a second time.

Wednesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said that if necessary, the state may step in due to Southwest Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun spoke with small business owners in Johnson City about how regardless they are bracing for another possible shutdown.

“Having another shutdown will be traumatic,” Vision Quest owner, Cyrus Fees said. “Do I think we’ll be okay?, yeah I think we’ll be okay. It is very frustrating to see businesses go out of business that maybe don’t need to or kids not having to be in school or be virtual because I think that there are a lot of things that we can control in this.”

In its second year of business, the COVID-19 pandemic showed no mercy to vision quest, initially located off of State of Franklin.

Fees said, “We started just last year in 2019, and then of course COVID hit, and took such a hit to us that we actually had to move locations just to make the business still work. We had businesses around us that went out and it just kind of killed our flow of customers to make a major change, which was kind of insanity.”

Now, at the Mall of Johnson City, with 2-times the space, owner, and avid gamer himself, Cryus frees said his new location is the perfect setup to social distance.

Fees said, “A very clean, sanitized activity, where kids can still have fun but they don’t have to be right up on somebody or touching a bunch of services.”

While it’s frustrating to see many businesses close due to the pandemic, Fees believes the community has control over the situation.

“We don’t want to see businesses shutdown. Folks that are being reckless and are kind of going against all these guidelines that we have in line, all that it’s doing is shutting businesses down and keeping kids out of school. If we could just take just a few small measures I think we could kind of keep this thing running as normal as possible.” Fees said, “With a few slight inconveniences, with a mask. It’s not the end of the world. It’s so much better to wear a mask than to see a business shut down or kids not be able to work with their teachers one-on-one.”

Right across the hall, is Fanatics 101, which has been in business for the last 17 years.

“We always have concerns but my philosophy is always try to worry about things that I can control. I can’t control if they shutdown again. I wouldn’t want that. Every day I just try to wake up and win today, and try to do the best I can for that particular day,” Fanatics 101 owner, KD Bowen said.

KD Bowen said another shutdown would hit him at a time when his sports retail store brings in the most revenue.

“You can’t make up a holiday time, so if it’s a shutdown during the holiday time- we make most of our money during the holiday time so that’s the last thing we want is a shutdown during that time. Like I said, I just trust God and just do what I can to try and satisfy our customers, and if we can’t we just find another way,” Bowen said.

It is an extended rainy day for his business, but Bowen said it is important to push through.

“When you’re not open, you still have bills. The mall don’t care that you’re closed, your vendors don’t care that you’re closed, so we still try to generate some income to try to help out and to stay sustainable,” Bowen said.

An even greater staple in the Tri is making things work by bring the venue to a parking lot near you.

“That’s sort of how we’ve stayed around. I feel like we’re all kind of out there with our own little spots right now with the pandemic. Our last show was March 13th and we’re out in the woodwork right now,” Ed Snodderly with The Down Home said.

With nearly 45 years in the Tri-Cities, Ed Snodderly, is hoping to keep this Mecca for music lovers alive by hosting a drive-in show.

“Will feature two different performers- one on November 8th, it will be the Steel Drivers and December 6th is Scott Miller,” Snodderly said. “Drive in, 4 o’clock show time. Come in like, at 2 to park. You have a stage.”

Ed Snodderly is expecting around 150 cars at the show, which will be held at the Mall at Johnson City’s parking lot. A $100 donation per car is suggested.

More information on the drive-in can be found here.

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