Local businesses use crisis as time to change, try new things

Thursday, May 14, 2020
Personal Expressions employee Grace Wagoner wipes down a counter, at Personal Expressions in Sikeston, on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat)

SIKESTON — While many local businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, some have used the pandemic as a time to change or explore new ideas.

“I knew right away that we needed to change, adjust and plan differently,” said Brooke Buchanan, owner of Personal Expressions. “I love our employee family and customers and didn’t want anyone to get lost in the changes.”

Buchanan said they have adjusted to the pandemic by trying to find ways to continue to pay employees and sell items by following the rules and regulations. While the doors to Personal Expressions were locked, they offered curbside delivery as well as contactless porch/mailbox delivery.

“This allowed one employee to work a day to man the social media posts, make videos to explain products, offer product knowledge and help inform our customers,” Buchanan said. “We also started offering products that I would have never imagined that we would sell, such as masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning products.”

The videos explaining products have been well received.

“We have found that videos are a great change for us — this will continue as well as curbside and door delivery in town,” Buchanan said. “Anything that helps our customers, is a change that we like.”

And Buchanan added she is extremely happy with her customers and how they have accepted the changes.

“Our customers are fantastic,” Buchanan said. “They have been so supportive of all of the changes as well as patient with products shipping delays.”

Along with many businesses, Personal Expressions is also paying closer attention to keeping their building clean.

“We have added disinfecting procedures to a daily schedule as well as in the process of purchasing a UV light to keep our credit card machines clean and disinfected as well,” Buchanan said. “We modified our hours to allow our more at-risk employees the opportunity to continue to work, but limit exposure. The days we are closed, allows them to come in and clean and check freight.

Bo’s BBQ also added extensive cleaning in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, including increased cleaning of “high touch” areas and all customer areas.

Bo’s also added online ordering (toasttab.com/bos-bbq) and curbside pickup.

“We were fortunate to have a drive thru already in place to accommodate customers,” said Chris Brannan of Bo’s BBQ. “We also increased our hours during the week to include the supper-time hours.”

Brannan said the online ordering was something that was being planned prior to the pandemic, but it wasn’t in use yet.

“I drug my feet a bit over the few months before COVID, but had the strong majority of the online system ready to launch,” Brannon said. “This is a great way for customers to order and be able to pick up their food at a specific time. If you haven’t tried the online ordering feature, I strongly encourage you to give it a try by phone, tablet or computer.”

The online ordering feature will stay as will the curbside service for the short term while their normal hours returned this week.

“The folks using the online ordering are really loving it,” Brannan said. “We have two to five orders per day through this channel. I encourage others to give it a try.”

Known for their breakfast for many years, Brannan is hoping the online ordering will help grow the lunch and supper crowds as well.

“If you haven’t eaten with us lately, please give us a try,” Brannan said. “Bo’s has gotten the reputation of a breakfast spot, but we have put a lot of effort into growing our lunch and supper crowds over the last few years. The most commented items have been our ribs and burgers.”

While adding online ordering, Brannan said they also used the time the dining area was closed to remodel their dining areas and bathrooms, including putting in new floors, ceilings and paint.

“It’s hard to paint the picture in words” Brannan said. “We wanted to give the customer experience more of a modern feel. We also wanted to open up the dining space as much as possible. I think we achieved these goals with the renovations.”

Jeremiah’s in Sikeston will also have a different look as they underwent an extensive remodel and redecorating.

“We’ve completely repainted the interior, purchased new seating and booths for the dining room,” said Phil Brinson, owner of Jeremiah’s. “We’ve replaced all of our lighting throughout the lounge and dining room. Remodeled our restrooms with new fixtures and we’ve landscaped our patio and entry way.”

Another big change was Jeremiah’s is now a non-smoking establishment. Smoking and vaping will only be allowed on their patio.

“Many of these changes had been planned and considered for some time before the COVID-19 shutdown,” Brinson said. “But the time required to complete the work was extensive and would have been extremely disruptive to our ongoing business. We felt this time shut down was a great opportunity for us to complete many of the changes we had wanted to make. The painting alone took several weeks to complete.”

Brinson said the changes have been well-received.

“I think all of the changes we’ve made have helped to create an atmosphere that’s even more comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable than it was before,” Brinson said. “Our guests seem to agree as their reaction has been overwhelming positive and enthusiastic.”

Along with the extensive remodel, Brinson said they also deep cleaned and freshened up the entire space inside and outside adding they are strictly adhering to government safety recommendations for sanitizing and social distancing which is limiting their seating capacity for the time being. They also have installed hand sanitizer at both entrances and have masks and gloves available for any guest that would like them.

“Jeremiah’s for many years has been blessed to have tremendous guest loyalty and support that makes it a joy for the staff to come in to work and serve our friends every day,” Brinson said. “Words cannot convey our gratitude to this community for their support. We feel the changes and improvements we’ve made is really just a way of saying thank you and giving back to our friends what they deserve. We’ve really missed them and are so happy to see them back.”

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