Small businesses turn to online sales to stay alive during Coronavirus closure

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Within the last week, dozens of small businesses in our hometowns have had to close their doors. For some, that means a devastating loss of foot traffic. But some are turning to online sales to stay alive.

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In downtown Roanoke, Book No Further has been forced to look farther than these downtown streets to sustain their business.

“By Friday and Saturday we had really no business," said Doloris Vest, owner of Book No Further. "Downtown was getting pretty deserted by that point. So we weren’t getting any traffic in the store.”

Owner Doloris Vest told WDBJ7 over FaceTime she decided to close the independent book store for now, shutting the doors on the nearly 50 percent of sales she gets from out of town visitors.

“We don’t have a very large margin anyway, so we need to keep our weekly sales about what they were with a lot of walk-in customers," she said.

But now she’s looking to find those customers online.

“We had curbside pick-up, but that’s not appropriate now," Vest said. "So we’ve got free delivery in the Roanoke Valley and inexpensive shipping for people outside the area.”

Vest said online sales right now are at least double what she'd typically have in a week's time.

While it’s not enough to replace in-store sales yet – she’s hopeful it’ll brew up more business than not.

It’s a hope shared by the owners of RND Coffee in Wasena, after they made the tough decision to close late Monday night.

“You know we consider RND to be a coffee lounge, and that kind of took the heart and soul out of what we were doing," said co-owner Quincy Randolph.

Randolph said their coffee shop had been doing well as it approached its one-year anniversary.

“We recognize that COVID-19 is much bigger than just how it’s affecting RND," he said. "But it’s really put a full halt and maybe even a setback to some of that momentum we had.”

Randolph said they too are looking to expand online sales, starting with small batches of roasted beans.

“Even during my primarily self-isolation, I have a few of the packages here, so like right here I have our Brazilian Coffee which is one of our darker roasts," he said, showing off a package of beans over FaceTime.

Besides coffee, he’s hoping that adding merchandise and equipment will help them just to break even, so that when the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end, they can come back stronger and bolder than before.

“It’s kind of imperative to try to get some of that local support so that these small businesses don’t disappear when it’s all said and done," Randolph said.

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