Covid Affects Cape Cod’s Small Businesses


Photo by Cece Brisbois

Nirvana Cafe in business during pandemic

Cece Brisbois, Staff Writer

     The phrase “shop small” is used to promote shopping at the mom and pop shops lining almost every Main Street or village.. In light of the pandemic, small shops, run mostly by local families, have had it harder than ever before, due to employment challenges, safety concerns and shipping issues. 

    To follow the standard safety procedures, stores must maintain a rule of eight people per 1,000 square feet including employees. All customers and staff in stores must maintain six feet distance and masks must be worn at all times. For Laura Shechtmen, owner of Nirvana Coffee Shop in Barnstable village, those rules mean Nirvana can only welcome a limited number of customers at a time, which can be tough on a very busy day.         

        But that isn’t the only difficulty she’s facing as a small business owner. “One of the hardest challenges has been keeping and finding employment,”  she said.

        Many workers looking for jobs have been wary of the unknown dangers due to the Covid pandemic. Since most of Schechtmen’s staff is younger, they tend to be very transient, meaning it is hard for small businesses to find and maintain long-term staff who feel comfortable working during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic finding employees has been a struggle for Nirvana and many other small businesses. 

      “Being able to obtain products and services with the current delivery delays and the lack of product has been a challenge we have faced,” said Shechtmen. 

        This seems to be another arising issue Nirvana and other stores have faced as they struggle to keep up with the demand of products and services.  Many delivery companies continue to be backed up or unable to deliver products on time. 

       Throughout Cape Cod, local and small stores have worked hard to maintain and provide a safe environment for all customers and employees, while creating a welcoming area for the community. For restaurants, that means adjusting to using  takeout more often. 

     Schectmen said that “I am so incredibly thankful for the fact that we can provide takeout food for customers,” 

     One thing this pandemic has increased is the amount of businesses that now provide curbside shopping such as Nirvana for example. Sophomore Elisabeth Baird, said  “Due to the pandemic many restaurants and stores have more advanced ways for takeout, which I really enjoy,” Customers are able to order their food and then take it with them to go in a quick and efficient system. Some businesses provide online ordering or will bring products out to the car. While stores like Celebrations of Cape Cod, a gift shop in Falmouth MA, provide personal shopping times, for consumers to safely shop one on one with the owner. Restaurants also have ordering online and pickup outside for meals to be brought home contact free. 

      Catherine Curely is a Barnstable High School student who works at the small business Mattakeese Wharf Restaurant in the summer months as a busser. For her working has been different this year due to the pandemic. At the restaurant, tables are limited and only certain amounts of customers will be seated at a time. Curley said, “ It can become very busy and crowded easily. With longer waiting times for tables, it can make the customers impatient or confused,” 

     Extra precautions have to be taken to ensure safely like cleaning salt and pepper shakers and wiping down tables and chairs thoroughly. As an owner, customer, or employee all people in the community have been affected by the adaptations that small businesses have taken throughout the past year.