Helena Pohl, a clerk at Port Book and News in Port Angeles, shelves books in the store. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Helena Pohl, a clerk at Port Book and News in Port Angeles, shelves books in the store. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Business impact of outbreak taking shape in Clallam

Restaurants, others make changes in light of COVID-19

PORT ANGELES — Following the statewide closure of schools and revenue-generating events because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, business owners and employees all across the North Olympic Peninsula are both tightening their belts and preparing ways to help their neighbors.

Among them is Port Book and News, which is offering free home delivery within Port Angeles city limits for purchases over $10.

“We have chosen to reach out with free home delivery as our way to provide help to those of you who are concerned about exposure,” the Port Angeles bookstore said in the letter posted to its Facebook page on Wednesday.

“We don’t want people to do anything they feel is unsafe,” said Alan Turner, who owns the store with his wife, Cindy Turner, on Friday.

“But it is a reminder that we can’t all withdraw from each other because everything will collapse.”

Health officials advise residents to minimize their potential exposure to others as much as possible. It’s good advice but it also is costing the economy.

Signs of the strain are apparent, with fewer people going to restaurants, staying in lodging establishments or shopping in stores.

Kokopelli Grill laid off 50 percent of its employees — a total of 30 — last week, said Michael McQuay, who owns the restaurant with his wife Candy. On Sunday, he closed Coyote BBQ Pub indefinitely.

“The numbers have dropped about 50 percent when numbers this time of year generally go up,” he said, although most of the drop was at the pub, rather than at Kokopelli.

He sees what’s coming, though, he says, and so Kokopelli this week will cut back from being open from 11 a.m. to closing seven days a week to serving dinner only Tuesday through Saturday.

This week, Kokopelli also will begin offering DoorDash, a food delivery service now offered by at least 45 restaurants in the area. Customers can use the DoorDash app or call their favorite restaurant to order.

Other restaurants and retailers throughout the Peninsula are offering curbside service, food to go, shipping and/or their own delivery services. Customers can call or seek the business’ website online to see what services are available.

For instance, Port Book and News also offers shopping online or by phone and that the bookstore ships anywhere in the country.

“Right away we started getting requests from people who used to live in Port Angeles” asking the store to delivery to people in town, Turner said.

One delivery to Deer Park Road was to the mother of a person living in Wenatchee.

Books also have been shipped to out-of-state residents who once lived in Port Angeles, such a people now living in Alaska.

“It jarred some people into realizing it isn’t just Amazon that can ship you things,” Turner said.

The bookstore’s Facebook post was shared 385 times and was viewed by more than 24,000 people, said Vanessa Ball, an employee who also handles social media for the shop.

“We knew that everybody was feeling the same thing, that it was happening to everybody,” Turner said.

The Clallam County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) is starting a campaign called Clallam Conquers Corona, said Executive Director Colleen McAleer.

The campaign will urge people to buy gift cards they can use later but which will help keep retailers going, McAleer said.

Mari Mullen, executive director of Port Townsend Main Street has urged residents to do the same thing there.

“Our merchants and staff are our friends and neighbors,” Mullen said. “These are local jobs. This is our community. Our local businesses here in Port Townsend can only thrive and be here for tomorrow if we patronize them.”

The Clallam County EDC also is compiling information through a survey provided by the state Department of Commerce on its website at clallam.org. The information will be used to aids in funding for the state, McAleer said.

One impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the cancellation of the March 25 county Job Fair, said Mark Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order banning gatherings of 250 people or more statewide “kind of made our decision for us,” Abshire said. He estimated that 500 job seekers would have attended the event. Another job fair is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Abshire said last week that entrepreneurs are concerned about a current and impending downturn in business over the next roughly six weeks.

“We are just beginning to see what the impacts will be, and it’s very difficult to estimate how big of an impact it will be, eventually, as we go through dealing with the virus,” Abshire said.

“We are currently working with other chambers around the state and associations around the state to come up with some best practices and some ideas for way for businesses to mitigate the impacts,” he said.

The chamber is coordinating efforts with the state Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration on potential financial assistance, mostly in the form of low-interest loans, he added.

Abshire said the chamber’s Port Angeles Maritime Festival June 13-14 may be cancelled.

There are no plans to curtail operations at 7 Cedars Casino, owned by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, CEO Jerry Allen said Saturday.

He said the venue’s activities are spread out over 70,000 square feet.

“We’ve got 600 slot machines, and we’re not even at 50 percent capacity.”

Allen said a meeting of 7 Cedars’ managers was held Friday, and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke has been invited to talk to staff.

Walmart cut hours at stores including those in Port Angeles and Sequim.

“Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice,” Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S., said Saturday in a prepared statement.

“This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing.”

Normal hours at the Port Angeles Walmart are 24 hours daily and at the Sequim Walmart, 6 a.m.-1 a.m., store associates said Sunday.

In Port Townsend, at least one shop is offering food for free.

Howell’s Sandwich Company in Port Townsend announced that it will provide free pre-made lunches for anyone who orders the “PT Special” for as long as it can.

“No questions asked, no money, just healthy food for those in need through these unprecedented times,” reads the announcement.

Said owner Mike Howell: “No kid should go without a meal.”

He added that others probably would do similar things to help their neighbors.

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