WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - When you look back at 2020, you will probably remember this:
Empty restaurants with protective plastic separating tables, barbers and hair stylists wearing masks, and the words 6 feet apart plastered everywhere.
It was a year of new challenges for north country businesses.
“With a constant flow of new information coming at them everyday, every business we are talking to and working with is navigating this situation very differently,” said Kylie Peck of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce.
The changes started on March 13th, when the Trump Administration declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A week later, Governor Cuomo issued a state at home order which forced non-essential businesses to close.
One of those non essential industries, restaurants, lost out on a lot of revenue while in-person dining was closed.
“Everyday that goes by that I am not able to at least open up my outside patio, that number will just continue to increase. And how will I ever make that back?” said Cari Greene, owner of the Blue Heron.
Gyms also saw huge losses as they were one of the last sectors to reopen.
“It’s frustrating to think that we have been in this crisis for about 4 months now and we have not been given the opportunity to try and operate safely as these other facilities have,” said Gary Bass, Thousand Islands Gym owner.
However, small town business did get some help thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan based program that secured funds for over 300 north country businesses.
One of those businesses being Carthage Area Hospital at over $5 million.
“The PPP was absolutely essential. Not only for operations of course, so we were prepared for a potential COVID surge, but of course it also boosted the morale of our employees,” said Taylour Scanlin, Marketing Executive Director at Carthage Area Hospital.
Other small businesses changed course to help the cause, like Clayton Distillery, which switched from booze to hand sanitizer.
“Our retailors just purchased all of those, and as of right now all 26,000 bottles are sold,” said Clayton Distillery Owner Mike Aubertine.
The pandemic also paused non-essential travel to Canada. It is still on pause to this day.
A survey released to Thousand Islands business owners revealed 2020 was one of the most disappointing since the survey began 22 years ago, but some tourism businesses found a silver lining.
“I am so hopeful that people will remember us small town companies like Wellesley Island Boat Rentals because we saw more families from more walks of life than I ever got to see,” said Vincent Donnelly of Wellesley Island Boat Rentals.
“We have had a lot of visitors from parts of New York State that have never been here before. People are discovering New York State because they can’t go outside of the state,” said Betty Mahoney, a sales clerk at the Eagle Shoppe in Clayton.
Towards the end of the summer months, many businesses were able to open their doors again at limited capacities. But, with a second wave of COVID-19 now happening in our own backyards, many are concerned over potential shutdowns or more restrictions. All that said, a vaccine is now on it’s way as businesses hope to be back to some sense of normalcy in 2021.