BOONE — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners have been exploring and quickly implementing new ways to meet the needs of the community and keep their businesses running.
“Our local business community has remained positive and shown amazing creativity during this time,” said David Jackson, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and president. “It’s not easy to account for such significant drops in customer volume, but we’ve seen several businesses that are taking this opportunity to use creativity, and good old-fashioned trial and error, to continue their quest to best serve their customers.”
Boone Drug Inc. started making hand sanitizer on March 13 “after there began to be market-wide shortages of product available to the general public,” said Marketing Coordinator Jessica Welch.
According to Welch, the effort began as a way to provide hand sanitizer to essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic but has quickly grown into making hand sanitizer for the overall community as “a way to give back.”
Since beginning production in March, Boone Drug has made “between 75-100 gallons of hand sanitizer” across its store locations, where the sanitizer is being produced by pharmacists and staff members alike.
Welch says that a gallon of sanitizer takes 15-20 minutes to mix.
“We were originally supplying small amounts of sanitizer to our patients, but once we were able to acquire a larger amount of ingredients we developed a plan to provide for the essential workforce,” said Welch, noting that providing for the essential workforce has become the main intent of the service.
Go Postal of Boone provided Boone Drug with labels to go on its stock of hand sanitizer, according to Welch.
Caleb Crowell is the CEO of New Appalachia, a network of local farmers with produce, and co-owner of the Kindly Kitchen restaurant in Boone. Crowell has combined his companies’ forces to serve the community during COVID-19. Crowell said the idea was a fairly easy one to implement as the two companies share overall goals and missions.
According to Crowell on April 21, New Appalachia and Kindly Kitchen have sold “about 700 food boxes during the past four weeks,” which are available for curbside pickup or delivery to addresses in Watauga County.
In the process, staff members pick up local produce from farms, sort the produce into boxes, and either deliver a variety of goods to community members’ doors or prepare boxes for pickup.
“The two companies have the same mission of providing local food and produce to the High Country,” Crowell said. “By partnering the two right now we’re still able to support our staff, local farmers and local produce from small farms.”
Crowell notes that, depending on the longevity of the COVID-19 pandemic, “this model could be really important for farmers to make a livelihood” especially if restaurants are unable to “come back strong.”
Additional information about Kindly Kitchen and New Appalachia can be found on their respective Facebook sites at https://www.facebook.com/EatKindlyBoone and https://www.facebook.com/newappalachiafoods.
Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk announced on April 15 that community members can schedule a Zoom call with the farm’s resident alpacas and llamas, who haven’t seen visitors since the farm’s COVID-19 closure, which began mid-March.
This is the farm’s “effort to stay connected, and still help its ... visitors and fans take a break from life,” according to the announcement.
Virtual alpaca and llama meetings are offered in 10-minute increments between 11 a.m. and noon on Wednesdays through Fridays and cost $10, which goes toward animal care on the farm.
Assistant Manager Tiffany Breindel says that the farm’s staff “sorely misses having people visit the farm,” and Zoom, which is an online video conferencing platform, allows staff members to continue making connections with the community.
“We just started them last week, and we had a great time with the first one we did,” said Breindel. “It was the caller’s birthday, so it was a special treat for them and us to be able to share the alpacas and llamas with them on their birthday.”
For additional information about scheduling a Zoom call with Apple Hill Farm, visit its website at https://applehillfarmnc.com.
Foggy Pine Books in Boone has also altered business as usual, according to owner Mary Ruthless, while trying to keep as much normalcy as possible in its programming. As result, Foggy Pine is hosting its book club meetings online.
“Our book clubs are also our longest running events, and we have a dedicated base of readers who attend the meetings,” said Ruthless. “We didn’t want to let them down or contribute to the isolation that we’re all experiencing while social distancing.”
Ruthless notes that the online book club meetings have “been pretty popular.”
“Our Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Club has had the most members attend the online meetings, but our Silent Book Clubs have brought in folks from all over the country,” Ruthless said. “I enjoy seeing our book club members, and it’s nice to connect with others, even if it’s through a computer screen.”