By David Brandon
June 1, 2020

Life after coronavirus: Reopening Edmond

Edmond businesses may be back, but they’re still dealing with the effects of being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 infections might not have hit Oklahoma as hard as other areas. But they hit just as hard economically.

The shutdowns, social distancing, and other consequences of the Coronavirus have had a big economic impact on Edmond. Though some businesses were classified as essential, many others weren’t, and the hospitality sector in particular was devastated.

Edmond’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Edmond is opening back up now that infections seem to be under control. Businesses have the chance to start working again with some restrictions in place following the OURS plan from Governor Kevin Stitt. OURS outlines a clear plan with clear dates for reopening, with contingencies in place if a further outbreak were to occur. Edmond has directly followed the OURS plan so far.

Phase 1 part 1 of the OURS plan included personal care by appointment only as well as opening of state parks, recreation and retail. Phase 2 included dining, entertainment, restaurants, tattoo parlors by appointment, and places of worship.

We’ve been in Phase 2 for a few weeks, which includes reopening bars and allowing funerals and weddings with appropriate social distancing.  So far the reopening has gone as planned without a significant spike, so it looks like Phase 3 of the reopening will occur at the start of June and slowly bring life back to normal.

Edmond businesses may be back, but they’re still dealing with the effects. Most have been able to reopen. But business may be slower to come back for some.

The Impact on Local Business

“My husband Robert and I just bought Evoke in September,” said Lori Dickinson-Black, co-owner of Cafe Evoke in downtown Edmond. “Within less than a week [after the COVID-19 restrictions began] we closed down our operations completely. We felt it was socially responsible for safety, our community, and our customers to close operations till the professionals had time to know what we were dealing with.”

Lori Dickinson-Black, co-owner of Cafe Evoke in downtown Edmond, makes latte while wearing a mask. Since reopening in May they have adhered to social distancing safety measures. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Mike Shipp of gaming shop Edmond Unplugged, had a similar abrupt ramp-down. “I had previously started social distancing and cutting down the number of tables and people we could have in, and then I shut completely,” he said.

Kim Ingmire, of Clauren Ridge Vineyard & Winery in North Edmond, had to shut down completely as well.

“As soon as the word came out we ceased operations,” she said. “We had to reschedule all the weddings for March, April, and May. It’s been very difficult finding dates for this year, and it’s been difficult on the people getting married because there aren’t that many Saturdays, so they have to pick up a Friday or a Sunday. With the social distancing, things are going to be a whole lot different than they visualize.”

Lacey Pierson refills a wine glass while wearing a mask at Clauren Ridge Winery (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

There’s been a lot of talk about the resourcefulness of business owners figuring out ways to still make money during the shutdown. That’s definitely part of it. But as Dickinson-Black pointed out, a lot of it is necessity.

“My husband and I have a consulting business called Springboard,” she said. “I work with nonprofits, he works with hospitality. We’re not just seeing problems in our business. These restaurants doing curbside? That’s desperation.”

Brad Mullenix is operations manager for CTB Group, which manages The Patriarch and 1884 restaurants in Edmond and Social Capital in Oklahoma City. His take was similar.

“It wasn’t great. It was an uphill battle the whole time,” he said. “We opened on May 1 as soon as we were able. It’s been a little bit of a slow start coming back. Each weekend has been a little better, but we’re not close to a regular May.”

Coming Back from Shutdown

For restaurants, coffee shops, event centers, bars, and other businesses that rely on in-person sales and interaction, COVID-19 was a huge hit. And though some are doing all right, others are still hurting.

Evoke has cut back its hours, limited its employees and let go a staff member to stay solvent. Edmond Unplugged has had to shave its business back to the bare minimum because its live tabletop and card game events still can’t happen. Some of the CTB Group’s staff moved on to other jobs. And plenty of other businesses are in the same boat. There are still a lot of people who are still not going out, either because they don’t know how much is open or because they’re afraid of sickness themselves.

On the other hand, some are seeing good returns already. Outdoor areas have helped for people who are wary of the virus. “Last weekend we could barely keep up,” said Ingmire. “I think it’s because we have a patio where people don’t have to come in and be next to each other.”

Mullenix agreed. “Patriarch and Social Capital have an advantage because they have huge outdoor patios. We’ve also made a point to bring food to people’s tables so they can come if they’re not comfortable.”

Problems and Opportunities

It seems like people are slowly coming back to businesses they might have left behind. For owners who were already struggling, though, COVID-19 might be a nail in the coffin. Two stores similar to Edmond Unplugged have gone out of business over the quarantine period. There are plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars that are struggling, too. A lot of businesses can’t survive an extended stretch with low or non-existent revenue.

But as with anything, there are also intangible benefits to the pandemic crisis.

“It’s not a terrible thing that we’re learning what it means to not have everything we need when we want it and how we want it,” Dickinson-Black noted. “A part of me kind of doesn’t want to go back to how it was before, where I had to squeeze every hour of the day to feel productive, to watch a movie with the kids or paint a picture or read a book or play outside or make an actual phone call.”

She also made a point to call out the members of the local community who have done their best to support the business. That’s been an ongoing theme: people want to help support their local businesses in whatever form that might take.

Edmond may take a little time to get back to normal, but from businesses to people, there’s a resilience that shines through. It’s nice to have some normalcy coming back as Edmond reopens.

“It’s a struggle,” said Mullenix, echoing a sentiment many business owners shared. “But we’re grateful to be open at all.”

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About David Brandon

David Brandon is a longtime Edmond resident who loves exploring new places around his hometown. He’s a freelance copywriter and devotee of the written word, spending many of his off hours reading and writing. He’s also an amateur musician and loves both listening to and creating music. A diehard Oklahoma City Thunder and general basketball fan, David blogs for Daily Thunder about the NBA salary cap and other basketball news. Catch him on Twitter for NBA thoughts.