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5.27.20 – KATV-  Little Rock

Small business owners in Arkansas are trying to navigate how to safely reopen amid the pandemic, including many retail store owners. Link to Video

Bella Vita Jewelry and Gifts in Little Rock sells a little bit of everything.

“The focus is our handmade jewelry,” owner Brandy McNair said.

Like many small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic forced McNair to shut doors back in March.

“I didn’t feel comfortable living my life and coming in here and possibly contaminating, or getting contaminated by the public,” she said.

McNair says she’s been getting by with the support of customers through curbside pickup. She also received a PPP loan.

Now, she’s taking the next step and reopening doors to her customers.

“We require gloves and masks for everyone that comes in the store, and we provide those items,” she said. ”We also have sanitizer at the door.”

McNair says she’s already seen a steady flow of shoppers coming in.

”I think it brings a lot of people joy, so we’re just glad we can open our doors again and have some kind of normalcy,” she said.

But to the road to reopen comes with a set of challenges for small businesses.

“They’re looking at how do to reopen, how to do it safely, how do they with the guidelines,” Executive Vice President of the Little Rock Region Chamber James Reddish said.

When it comes to consumer spending, Reddish says Arkansas is in good shape.

“We are one of three states that’s in a net positive position since this all began,” he said. “Meaning our consumer spending has actually gone up, whereas the country has gone down.”

The hope is this kind of customer support will help small business owners like McNair get back on their feet.

“I just want to remind people how important it is to shop local and eat at your local restaurants,” she said. “Just keep that in mind these days.”

The Little Rock Regional Chamber reports about 85 percent of businesses in the region are small businesses.

The chamber has also created a “relaunch guide” for small businesses looking for resources. You can find it here.