How St. Louis Small Businesses Are Coping With the COVID-19 Pandemic— And What We Can Do to Support Them

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy, St. Louis small businesses are finding ways to make the most of these challenging and uncertain times. Restaurants and bars have been hit particularly hard beginning Thursday, March 19, St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County officials announced restaurants and bars must close for dine-in service. 


“Although there was news of this virus in other countries months ago, and news of it in the States several weeks ago, it didn’t get ‘real’ until less than a couple of weeks ago,” said Narwhal’s Crafted co-owner Brandon Holzhueter. On March 7, St. Louis County confirmed the first positive COVID-19 case. As cases quickly escalated, Holzhueter described a sense of “uneasiness.” Once county officials mandated that all dine-in service be suspended on March 19, Narwhal’s like other St. Louis small businesses knew it was time to get creative in order to survive financially. 


Co-owner Brad Merten came up with the idea of quarantine care packages. “It was a way to do Narwhals to-go … but also partner with other local businesses, which, like us, were trying to find a way to survive during this crazy time,” said Holzhueter. The first care package included items from Pickleman’s and Pretzel Boy’s, corona beer with lime, water bottles, a roll of toilet paper and, of course, an assortment of Narwhal’s products: a 40 oz fishbowl, a branded straw and a gift card. 


The community response was overwhelmingly positive. “It was an incredible feeling to see sales happening again and our staff working so hard but with huge smiles on their faces,” says Holzhueter. “And to see posts from our customers enjoying this package at their homes, with their significant others or with their pets or just by themselves. They were telling us ‘thanks for making this quarantine bearable!’ and that was a fantastic feeling.”


Narwhal’s management plans to continue switching up the quarantine care package items by offering different Narwhals products and partnering with a variety of local businesses. Some of their most recent partnerships include Crispy Edge, Prioritized Pastries, 4 Hands Brewing Co. and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company


In addition to quarantine care packages, Narwhal’s frozen cocktails are also available for curbside pickup. All orders can be placed online or via phone. 


Local businesses continue to support one another and are encouraging the St. Louis community to do the same. A special emphasis is being placed on the hospitality industry. 


In a press release, St. Louis based apparel brand Series Six Company stated, “Series Six Company is partnering with the St. Louis hospitality industry to support them during the COVID-19 outbreak. With the release of ‘Support Local’ and ‘Eat Local’ t-shirts, 100% of the profits from those two tees go towards a relief fund for the St. Louis hospitality industry. Every shirt is printed locally by our friends at Left Hand Promotions right here in Soulard.” 


The first hospitality relief fundraiser was launched by Bob Brazell, the chef and owner of Byrd & Barrel and co-owner of Tamm Avenue Bar and The Tenderloin Room. On Sunday, March 15, he created a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 for struggling St. Louis hospitality professionals. Once the goal is reached, the $10,000 will be equally distributed among verified industry employees. 


Ultimately, the St. Louis business community has shown remarkable positivity and resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of local businesses to rally in support of one another is inspiring, and demonstrates the strength of community within the St. Louis area. 


As consumers, we have the ability to support our favorite local businesses. Follow them on social media and visit their websites to learn about their online offerings and delivery options, and most importantly: shop and eat locally!