BUSINESS

Shop Local: How COVID-19 is impacting Oxford businesses

Oxford Square in the daytime. Photo by Breyton Moran.

Pixie Anderson
Oxford Stories
pmander5@go.olemiss.edu

Lauren Perry
Oxford Stories
lrperry1@go.olemiss.edu

Former Mayor Pat Patterson runs University Sporting Goods on the Square, one Oxford business that is temporarily closed because of the impact of COVID-19.

“We are in an absolutely uncharted territory right now,” said Patterson. “This has completely ruined business for the spring, and what I am deeply worried about is how it is going to affect the fall, and whether or not there will be Ole Miss games here, and so forth, to bring in more people for the businesses.”

To take precautions, Patterson said he has cut back on his workload, only working about one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon to keep himself safe.

Former Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson. File photo.

Some might say Oxford currently resembles a ghost town. And many are concerned about how COVID-19 will impact local businesses.

Rachel Spragins, 21, is an employee of The Lily Pad gift shop and boutique on the Oxford Square. The store is known for trendy Ole Miss clothing, gifts, Greek customizable items and jewelry.

“I think it (COVID-19) has more of an effect on the small businesses and boutiques than people realize,” she said. “Shopping for gifts and clothing isn’t really most people’s priority right now.

“Losing baseball season, Double Decker, and just everything else that happens in the spring really makes it hard for, not only the small businesses on the Square, but really everyone in the Oxford community.”

Lily Pad
Lily Pad

Spragins said the store wrapped up its big Valentine’s Day sale before the pandemic, and they were gearing up for spring.

“I feel like everything happened so fast,” she said. “Our first main concern was obviously safety for our customers, as well as my fellow employees in early-mid March. We constantly cleaned everything, and we were very cautious when dealing with merchandise and interacting with customers.”

Due to local government regulations, many businesses have temporarily closed, but continue to offer services through alternative ways, such as online orders and to-go pick-up.  

“We have moved a lot of our clothing and other merchandise online, and we ship and deliver in town,” Spragins said. “We also use social media to keep our customers informed on our items and what we are getting back in stock.

“I think it’s going to be different for each business after all of this, but if I know one thing, I know Oxford is a community that really supports each other. Just growing up here, I’ve truly seen how this community knows how important it is to shop local and to support your hometown through these times.”

Ole Miss Golf Course
Ole Miss Golf Course

The Ole Miss Golf Course is another local business that relies on student customers. Employees there are also taking necessary precautions to stay safe.

“With the weather getting warmer over the past month, business had started to reach its peak for the semester,” said employee Brianna Shafer, “but it slowed substantially as COVID-19 became more prominent in the U.S.

Brianna Shafer
Brianna Shafer

“Following spring break and the announcement of the closure of the university, there were a few days that the pro-shop was closed at earlier hours due to smaller crowds coming out to golf than normal… And that rarely happens.”

At first, the Ole Miss Golf Course opened with altered hours.

“A few weeks into March, we took the first step to close the course and clubhouse, leaving the driving range open to the public during certain hours,” Shafer said. “However, with a decrease in business and an increase in health concerns, we ended up having to close everything all together.”

Despite the closure of the Ole Miss Golf Course, Shafer remains positive about the next few months and what will happen when life goes back to normal. 

“If the course is able to open by summer, I think business will go right back to normal with the weather being nice and people wanting to be outside,” she said. “That being said, I see the golf course bouncing back just fine once this is all over with.”

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