Making it work

Fran Brownell
Balloons and More, Inc. owner Tonja Harrison delivers a "just because" M&M balloon bouquet to Taunya Westerman, providing a "to the car" service. Harrison said she is pulling out all the stops  when it comes to providing services to customers which will also help keep her business afloat in this time of dealing with coronavirus restrictions.

The coronavirus disease affecting the world has become more than a health concern to many Pratt residents. It is also hitting some small businesses, like Balloons and More, Inc., Busy B Bakery and Evergreen Inn hard in the pocketbook.

“I’m doing everything I can to stay in business,” Balloons and More owner Tonja Harrison said. “I’ve marked down part of our inventory 50 percent to help customers with budgets and to help keep our doors open. I even had to lay off an employee.”

Harrison said she feels her services, like delivering balloon bouquets, are especially important in uncertain times.

“Kids need some normality,” Harrison said. “They need to be able to celebrate special occasions, like birthdays.”

Harrison is continuing to take phone orders on her business line at 620-672-6694.

“I will delivery anything customers order to their door in Pratt,” Harrison said. “Balloons, jerky, sunflower seeds, party supplies, seasonings, puzzles, anything.”

Of the senior living facilities in Pratt, Harrison said she has clearance to deliver to Pratt Rehab and Residence Center.

“They’ll come to the door and meet me,” she said.

In addition to balloons and other merchandise which Harrison personalizes to order, Harrison said Balloons and More at 105 West First Street also handles UPS deliveries and pickups.

“We’re continuing this service,” Harrison said. “Just leave your pre-paid parcels at the door.”

For parcels that require payment, Harrison said she will come to the shipper’s car if requested.

As a safety measure, Harrison said she is sanitizing the store’s doorknob every time it is used.

The prospect of availability of loans to small businesses is not a solution that eases Harrison’s mind.

“How am I going to pay it back?” Harrison responds regarding a loan.

Brandie Cupples who opened Busy B Bakery in the Parrish hotel at Third and Jackson in January remains optimistic, despite her loss of business.

With schools not in session, Cupples said she’s missing the business of students who had become regular customers because of her proximity to both Pratt High School and Liberty Middle School.

Also, Cupples said part of her business has been baking birthday cakes for classroom parties and that is no longer an option. However, she said is still taking orders for birthday or “just because” cakes.

Cupples said Busy B soup lunches will continue at the bakery and takeout orders area also available. Bread and cookies continue to be popular, even in these uncertain times, Cupples said.

She recently tried marketing a cookie decorating pack and sold out within hours, so she may try that again. It seems to have been a popular idea with parents needing a project for their students at home.

With school not is session, Cupples is shortening her hours to a new schedule of open 7:30 4:30 p.m.

Cupples said she plans to keep baking for customers, unless a mandatory shutdown is ordered.

“Pratt’s a good community. We’ll make it,” Cupples said.

Evergreen Motel & RV Park on the western outskirts of Pratt is also being heavily impacted, according to owner-operators Larry and Lynn Kahmeyer.

“It’s rough, the coronarius has had a pretty profound impact on our business,” Larry said. “Almost all of our reservations have called and cancelled.”

Evergreen Motel has 16 rooms, plus a train caboose that has been converted as a guest room. The RV park has 25 spaces.

As a precaution against spread of the virus when registering guests they do have, Kahmeyer said there’s a “night window” which allows for guest registration without face-to-face contact.

“We’re disinfecting everything, even our pens,” he said.

The motel and RV park also provide accommodations for out-of-town workers in the area for construction projects and that revenue will be a loss, too, if scheduled work projects are delayed, Kahmeyer said.

His main concern is how long the threat continues, because fixed expenses do continue.

“I wouldn’t put a rosy picture on it,” Kahmeyer said.