Central Texas and the Brazos Valley have lost a lot of small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving those left to hang on with the tenacity of a prizefighter.
25 News revisited a group of small businesses in Temple to see if they survived the holidays, and what lessons they learned along the way.
No one knows customer service like Amy Thomas of Zootie's Boutique, who's always preached the importance of shopping local. She believes that's one reason regular customers returned to support the merchants at Pecan Plaza, and why they've brought new shoppers
"We had quite a few new customers, and then we also had people that were looking for unique items and they wanted to shop locally," she explained.
Thomas says customers heard the call to support their friends and neighbors, helping these businesses make it to the new year.
”We made it... to today!” said Suzie Winkler of Paperdoodles, who made sure every shopper knew how every dollar they spent helped put food on the table and a roof over people's heads.
”A lot of people I had never seen before had never heard of us before, and we appreciate it. Everybody that came through the door, it didn't matter who they were, we would appreciate it and been very thankful, felt very blessed to still have our doors open,” she said.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which supports entrepreneurship, reports since February, 25% of all small businesses across the country have closed, at least temporarily, leaving customers with fewer choices.
While some stores have managed to do better than last year, all managed to hang on to fight another day.
”Christmas went surprisingly well, and you know we were a little down from the year before, but nothing like what I was kind of afraid of,” said Misty Dollar of Callie's Boutique.
Because the fight to stay afloat in this economy takes more effort, as businesses adapt to changing customer habits.
”This year was a little bit slower than years before. There was a, you know, not so many people going out, not so much Christmas party,” said Sal Metalianha of Joe's Pizza & Pasta
At the end of the day, these business owners say they work to welcome regular customers while cultivating new ones.
"We have the most wonderful customers, and we treasure our new customers as well,” said Thomas.
Because the tougher things get, the harder these business owners will work to provide that personal service that sets them apart.