How these essential businesses are faring during the pandemic

Deemed essential, two local businesses are experiencing the ups and downs of customers at home.
Beatties-Ford-Inspection

What we consider “normal” has been flipped upside down since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Businesses deemed nonessential were ordered shut once the stay-at-home order went into effect six weeks ago. However, being classified as essential hasn’t protected businesses from the negative effects of the pandemic.

Beatties Ford Inspection opened in 1982 as Palmer & Son. Like others in the service industry, the shop located along Charlotte’s Beatties Ford Road corridor has seen its business decline as more residents have stayed at home.

Kendrick Palmer, a service writer and son of the owner, says with fewer people driving, the auto center has lost between 70% to 80% in sales from the slowdown with car repairs and state-mandated inspections. The business also offers auto-detailing services, and that has seen a 70% drop in sales.

“The only constant thing currently, even though it is a little slower than normal, is the inspection,” Palmer said. “We’re not mobile, people have to come to us. Most of our customers find us through Groupon.”

The company prides itself on its low prices, customer service and a long history in the community. Because of this, Palmer prioritizes customer safety. Due to the nature of the inspection business, customers aren’t allowed in the service area, which makes it easier to keep the recommended six-foot distance. 

Still, after noticing fear from some customers about the virus spreading on surfaces inside their cars, the shop decided to include an additional safety measure.

“We’ve added a disinfectant to our auto-detailing services. We will keep that in place after the shutdown, especially since most people ride around with gloves and masks in their car,” he said. “We want to help ease their fear by letting them know we will clean the inside of their car for free.”

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A customer completes service at Beatties Ford Inspection. Photo courtesy of Beatties Ford Inspection
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Palmer admits providing free services while losing a chunk of earnings might hurt in the long run, especially without successfully securing any stimulus funding. But he’s more concerned about humanity than making a buck.

“Just the price I’m willing to pay because if the people are sick, they can’t come out,” he said plainly. “If I can help them maintain their health, and if I do get hit a little bit, at least I have another opportunity to rebound.”

When news is your business

Local journalists are working harder these days to keep up with the fast-changing information related to the virus. But what are the related effects on a local newspaper company?  

The Charlotte Post has been spreading weekly news about the Black community since 1878. Despite the newspaper’s long history, even they had to make drastic changes in response to the pandemic. On March 26, The Post paused print production and shifted online for its Charlotte operations and The Triangle Tribune in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Herbert White, The Post’s editor-in-chief, explained that pausing printing was a way to look out for the workers involved in their supply chain.

“Our concern was that it takes many hands to create a print publication,” he said. “From our distribution point where the paper is printed to the carriers who take them home and everything in between. There are a lot of hands involved.” 

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Herbert White works from home as editor-in-chief of The Charlotte Post newspaper. Photo courtesy of Herbert White
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Most of the nine-member staff was already teleworking, minus the circulation director and a receptionist. According to White, working remotely has become the standard for many journalists “because if we have a computer and a telephone, every place is your office.”

The temporary loss of a physical product hasn’t hurt their readership. White says the papers are hitting their digital targets ahead of schedule. In March, they reached 1.1 million people across all of their platforms.

“Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, there’s more of a hunger for the news and information. So as far as numbers go, they’re pretty good,” he said.

Dante Miller
Dante Miller is a freelance writer who received her journalism and mass communications degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. She loves music, reading novels and watching television.

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1 Comment

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  1. Sense the pandemic I have not been able to get the charlotte poles is there a way to get it online I would love to do that.

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