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Business
Local businesses trying to manage through pandemic

A month into the statewide stay-at-home order brought on by COVID-19, businesses around Derby continue to adapt. Some have seen severely decreased customer traffic or even had to shut down temporarily, some have had even more business then normal, and others entered a slowdown but are gearing back up in hopes that the stay-at-home order will soon be lifted.

No matter the industry, changes have been made in reaction to the coronavirus. Here’s a look at how local Derby businesses have been managing the situation.

Healthcare

While most healthcare professions have been deemed essential businesses under the state’s stay-at-home orders, they have not been immune to the impact of the virus.

Many medical practices have turned to telemedicine to offer services at this time, with several amending hours due to patients not wanting to come in to physical locations.

“Our patient load has decreased,” said Tanglewood Family Medical Center office manager Lori Nighswonger. “Whatever we saw last year, we’re seeing only like half of those patients.”

At Rainbow Valley Veterinary Clinic, Dr. David Drake noted a similar trend in patient traffic. While his office remains open and offering curbside service to animal owners (treating pets while their owners wait outside), there have been fewer animals treated over the past month.

“It’s definitely been down (about 30 to 40 percent),” Drake said. “Obviously we’re pushing our preventative stuff off into the next month. A lot of stuff that people have been calling for we’re trying to schedule it, but later on, hopefully when this all blows over.”

Meanwhile, Wichita Family Dental (with a location in Derby) has remained open as normal throughout the situation. Business traffic has been different, though, according to Dr. Chuck Pierson.

Typically, the majority of conversations in the past year have focused on orthodontics and cosmetic types of elective procedures, but are now geared more toward dental emergencies (i.e., swelling, infections, toothaches, broken teeth, etc.).

Like most medical clinics, Pierson noted sterilization policies have also been heightened at the Wichita Family Dental locations – which will be the same in Derby once the remodeled location reopens on May 4.

“We’re just in a whole new normal – wearing face shields, a hair net and the disposable gowns. When a patient comes into the office we have them sanitize their hands before and afterwards. Before they come into the office we’re doing temperature checks,” Pierson said.

Both Tanglewood and Rainbow Valley applied for and received Paycheck Protection Program loans, which have helped manage staffing situations (whether in terms of limited hours or personnel), while Wichita Family Dental is waiting on approval. All three, however, are concerned that even with the stay-at-home order lifted it will take a while before things return to normal.

Retail liquor

One of the few businesses mostly unfazed by the current situation, liquor stores are operating almost exactly the same as they were prior to the pandemic – though K&S Liquor owner Seth Reed noted he has been closing his store two hours earlier and limiting capacity to 10 customers at a time.

As with all businesses, cleanliness in liquor stores has become more of a focus, with Reed increasing those efforts and offering contactless curbside service for customers. Meanwhile, Rock Liquor owner Mike Harper noted they have started utilizing Everclear to make their own hand sanitizer for use at the store.

For both, business traffic also remains mostly unfazed – even increasing somewhat amidst the current pandemic.

“It’s up,” Harper said. “I think it’s mostly up because the bars are closed, so you have a lot of people who drink at bars who don’t go to liquor stores. We’ve picked up those sales is what it looks like to me, so it’s a slight increase.”

“We’re definitely a little busier than usual. We are seeing an uptick in purchases as well as people buying more than they normally would to maybe try to not come in at a later date would be my guess,” Reed said. “Certainly they want us open; we’ve heard that very regularly, how happy people are that we are deemed an essential business. I think people are coming in because they want a sense of normalcy. They want to be able to do what they’ve always done, and that includes having a beer.”

Rock Liquor has applied and was approved for a PPP loan, while K&S Liquor is still waiting to hear back on its application.

Though business has been good, both Reed and Harper know the longer the stay-at-home order remains in place the greater impact it could have on the local economy, and they look forward to moving past the current situation.

“I think it’s very stressful – just the fact that it’s a very contagious disease and you have to deal with people every day,” Harper said. “Everybody’s trying to be safe and you want to shake someone’s hand and greet them, but you can’t. It seems weird.”

Recreation

Outdoor activities are part of an exemption to the stay-at-home order, which means there are leisure opportunities out there.

Some – like golf – are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis (with both courses in Derby currently open), while other recreation-based businesses have had to shut down temporarily. Derby Bowl falls into the latter category.

Owner Derek Frazier noted the bowling alley closed March 19. While his business has received the PPP loan since then (a great benefit), he looks forward to the point when Derby Bowl can reopen – a moment for which employees are currently preparing.

“We’ve got some staff inside the building doing some disinfecting and cleaning, getting ready to reopen – cleaning, floor waxing and just all kinds of disinfecting,” Frazier said. “I think they need to get the economy moving. I think the governor’s feeling a little pressure and it’s probably time they open things up, even though it’s going to be a soft opening and slow process. They need to get started pretty quick.”

Restaurants

Jose Ayala, the manager and owner of the Derby and Wichita La Hacienda locations, said the restaurant has been doing its best to bring in business since the stay-at-home order went into effect – but it has been difficult.

“Business is not like it usually is,” Ayala said. “It’s not like what we’ve come to expect, but we’re doing what we can do. We would like to get more business, but it’s all we can do.”

La Hacienda was used to getting more than 100 groups of customers each day of business. After the stay-at-home order began, the restaurant has been getting around 20 customers per day.

Normally Ayala has a staff of around 20 workers. Right now, he is only able to keep a few working.

The Kansas stay-at-home order is currently set to be lifted in early May, unless Governor Laura Kelly makes a change. But Ayala is not sure when La Hacienda may be able to fully reopen and allow customers to dine inside. No restaurants know when that will happen. Ayala said if things get worse or stay consistently bad, La Hacienda may have to even stop doing takeout orders.

“A couple hundred dollars is not worth the risk,” Ayala said. “It all depends. If it gets better, we will continue to stay open. We’ve got to wait and see.”

Barbershop/hair stylists

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Businesses like Derby’s D&M Barber Shop and others remain empty at the moment, being forced to shut down or amend store policies due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Vu Nguyen, owner of D&M Barber Shop, has been a barber in Derby for nearly 25 years. This is the first time over those years that he hasn’t been able to cut hair.

His business is all about shaking hands, sharing stories and cutting hair. COVID-19 changed everything.

The barber shop has been closed since March. Once he is able to reopen, Nguyen said there will probably have to be some precautionary changes.

“Probably we’re going to change how many people can be in the shop at any time,” Nguyen said. “I don’t take appointments, but we’ll probably have to make people sit in their cars and wait.”

Financially, too, Nguyen said it probably won’t be the same.

“The amount of people will be way down, and some people are going to be scared. They’re going to hold back, and they’re going to cut their own hair. It’s going to change what people do,” Nguyen said. “It’s sad, very sad.”

Being closed, the lack of income is the biggest challenge at the moment. While Nguyen applied for the PPP loan, he was not approved to receive funds.

The lack of income hurts, but Nguyen said he’s going to make sure to follow the guidelines upon reopening so he can keep others safe and asks for understanding of those changes.

“I don’t want to be that guy, just in case somebody gets sick and comes to the shop. I can’t deal with that. I can’t live with that in my life,” Nguyen said. “Let’s say you come in and I say ‘can you sit in the car?’ Please don’t be upset. We’re not going to do this forever. And right now it’s the right thing to do. So don’t take it personal.”

And Nguyen urges people to support small local businesses – all the time, but especially right now.

“They need all the help they can get when they reopen again,” Nguyen said. “So please support them, because some of them will not survive. They will not. So if you can help local stores when they come back, help them. They need all the help they can get.”

Home repairs

Quality Construction and Remodeling owner Jared Brown took a poll of his employees, which led to a temporary shutdown of his business, even though it is considered essential. Brown and crew reopened as of April 20, though, and have stayed busy – and safer – given the number of jobs the company has picked up.

“We’re back at work now and, yeah, we are practicing social distancing on the job site,” Brown said. “The good news is we’re doing a lot of outdoor stuff right now, so that’s quite a bit easier.”

Some jobs – like bathroom remodels – make that trickier, but Brown said he has implemented a one-person limit for inside work in such scenarios.

Brown did apply and receive a PPP loan, which helped during the temporary shutdown. It also allowed him to hire an additional member for his crew as they enter their busy season.

“We’re really busy right now. We’re actually booked out until July and I’ve got a lot of other estimates out there, so we’ve got a lot of work on the books,” Brown said. “I think people are at home and realizing that, ‘okay, well we may not be traveling this year; let’s do this project at the house that we’ve been putting off.’”

Receiving the PPP loan has helped Brown, but there have certainly been hiccups caused by the current pandemic. Moving ahead, he is hopeful that will turn around soon to provide a stimulus to the economy.

“A lot of what keeps the wheels turning in our economy is people spending money. They spend money with me, I can therefore turn around and spend money with somebody else – some other local business, some other suppliers – it’s the circle of life,” Brown said. “Going forward, obviously all of us are hoping that this just kind of fades away and we can get back to life as normal … because it’s pretty frustrating.”


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Thoughts on Continuous Learning in Derby: Great, challenging, pleased, frustrating and more

This is part 2 of a series that began in the April 22 Informer.

Derby parents have a range of feelings about how USD 260’s Continuous Learning Plan is going so far. We talked to some of those parents to get their thoughts. Here are some of their answers.

Jae Hedrick, a development officer at a local nonprofit with a freshman at Derby High School

I think that it’s going great. I’m so proud of our school district for putting together a plan with basically no notice – a situation completely out of their control. And I believe that all of my son’s teachers have provided a great kind of road map for how to go the last few weeks of school, [a road map] that’s not too hard but also not insulting.

I don’t feel like they’re sending coloring pages for my high schooler to do. I believe they’re honestly doing the best with what they can do right now. They obviously don’t want the students to learn any more than a student may typically use in the summer.

I think he will [be prepared for next year]. I also take responsibility as a parent to make sure he has access to challenging things. It’s not the teachers’ job to make sure he retains information. His teachers, I really am thankful, they’ve been very open with, ‘This is kind of what’s going on, we’re going to try this.’ The flexibility has been great.

So all things considered, I think it has been great. Of course, there’s hiccups with technology. We all have that one Zoom meeting where one person’s cat walks across the table. or someone can’t figure out how to turn on the audio. But I think it’s been wonderful. I’m so very thankful that Derby cares enough to really put thought into it.

Missy Weyand, a social services worker with a sophomore at Derby High School

I’m frustrated and I feel like [my son is] missing out on a lot of education that he’s not getting. Yes, he can do the online assignments, but that’s not the same. There’s a reason I don’t homeschool my child. I think there’s a lot they miss out on by not being in the classroom.

They turn [assignments] in if they want to. And they get 10 points just for participating in the Zoom call. So really he has to do virtually no assignments to raise his grade. Some of the teachers are literally just giving them credit for that.

It has been difficult [for me]. I also work from home, so I’m trying to do both at the same time. I’m working from home on technology, and also making sure he’s doing what he needs to be doing, and making sure he has what he needs to be doing it.

I just wish that they would not have told the kids it did not matter whether or not they did the assignments. My standards were that you do the assignments. Now he’s basically being told it doesn’t matter whether you do them or not. I think had they just not told the kids that, I think it would have been a lot easier for parents to enforce that they need to do the assignments.

I think [assignments and grading] should be as normal. If the teachers are teaching and giving assignments, I think the kids should be graded on it.

I think [the school district] did a good job getting [at-home learning] set up to the best of their ability. I don’t think they’re doing a good job of following up and making sure it works or caring how parents feel about how it’s going.

Joel Addis, a special education teacher at El Paso Elementary School with a fourth grader and fifth grader

I’ve been really pleased, and really excited to be part of [the Continuous Learning Plan] as a teacher. I’ve got a fourth grader and a first grader. Just watching them interact and get the content through Seesaw or Google Classroom is really good.

I feel like my children’s teachers are doing a really good job of engaging them. My first grader’s teacher is doing videos, and I’ve really been impressed with how engaging those are for him to teach those reading and math concepts to him.

And my kids love the live Zoom meetings with their class. Teachers have stressed that they’re optional, but those are a must for them. Just the ability to check in with [their classmates] and their teachers and knowing they’re there and thinking about them and knowing they can see their classmates like that … it’s just been really like starting the school year over in every way. And I’ve been really impressed with everything I’ve seen.

There’s going to be a learning curve any time you start anything new. I feel like this is uncharted waters for everyone. What I think is, teachers who started with a plan are adapting as needed. I think things are going as well as they could from my perspective as a parent and a teacher.

I teach my students and now I’m teaching my kids, and it’s been a learning curve there. But I’m really excited to help my child learn. And I know that might sound kind of silly, because I obviously see how much he’s grown, but it’s cool to be a part of that. Even though I work in the schools, being able to participate as a parent, it really cements that partnership.

I guess I would just hope that parents who are upset ... really when people are upset that’s kind of a surface concern showing. What is that deep concern? Is it stress because of the additional workload? Is it anxiety? I would just hope they would reach out to their children’s teachers and try to engage with them to find some working solutions. Because I’ve not talked to any teachers about this who have not been willing to meet families where they’re at and work with them. I really think that’s the goal with this – offer multiple options and meet families where they’re at.

Nancy Jane Powers, a grandparent supervising a second grader and fourth grader at Tanglewood Elementary School

COURTESY 

Nancy Jane Powers is a grandparent who supervises two grandchildren during the school day. Her fourth grader is pictured here during one the first days of at-home learning.

I’m not going to lie, this has been a challenge. I’m 63 and education is what my degree is in, and I’ve subbed in the Derby District, but this puts a whole new slant on learning. The first week the fourth grader was frustrated and got emotional. We’re in a little bit more of a routine. But what I don’t like is the inconsistency [when it comes to their schedules], and it’s difficult having both of them at the same time because they both need help maneuvering through the programs. Nobody showed me how to do these things. Nobody said, ‘Okay, when you need to go to Seesaw, this is what you do.’ I’m learning from these kids. These kids are showing me how to get into their Chromebooks.

So it’s been frustrating getting them started, getting the routine down and getting them the support that they emotionally need, in addition to learning. I want to make sure I’m supporting them in what they’re supposed to be doing. And I know this is a challenge for these teachers too.

This whole thing has been a frustration but we’re trying to be positive. When I talk to [the fourth grader], I say, ‘What are we learning about?’ and he says, ‘Well, we’re not learning anything.’ I know his teacher was speaking for about 40 minutes this morning, so I know he’s teaching something. A lot of this is just ‘go online and figure it out.’ And that hurts my head. I’ve even had to recruit help with the second grade math. It’s very frustrating, because I learned one plus one is two. I didn’t know there are 50 ways you could get to two.

But I think schools are doing the best they can … the teachers are doing the best they can. We’ve never encountered anything like this. This is all unknown territory. You just have to learn flexibility and go with the flow at any age. I’m learning with them.

One of my biggest frustrations is making sure they’re being truthful in telling me that ‘I got this done.’ because I don’t know what the teachers are seeing, and I’m not getting the feedback that they’ve received the kids’ work.

And I think [the kids are] craving being in the classroom. But kids are flexible and adaptable. They’ll arise to the occasion when they need to. They just need to get over some of the humps. In the beginning it was the emotional hump. In a month they’re going to be sick of doing it this way. They’re going to miss having closure with their friends and closure with their teachers. This time of year they’re used to winding things down at school.