Opinion: A year later, have local businesses changed their hours?

A year ago this week, I advised local businesses to work on making a permanent change to their hours of operation, staying open later to accommodate shoppers that were doing their buying later and on weekends, anyway.

Of course, this was before Coronavirus and shutdowns. Most of us who are operating businesses these days are just grateful to still be able to open our doors, let alone actually be open later.

That’s not to say that there weren’t casualties. Most of us remember when we found out that Lori’s Sweet Sinsations was closing (although owner Lori Duncan says that wasn’t related to COVID-19) and last week we found out that the last major video rental store, Family Video, would be closing all of its locations.

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Though Sapulpa opened its businesses much more quickly than many other cities, it seems we’re turning a corner as a country on the idea:  even the most restricted city leaders are beginning to change their tunes about opening up businesses. At his “State of the State” address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after months of lockdowns, is now pushing for businesses to find ways to reopen, while they still can, saying that if they wait too late, “we won’t have anything left to reopen.”

So as the rest of the country begins to yawn awake after a hibernation from Coronavirus, let’s take the opportunity to double-down on our promise to the community to provide quality service, at a time when they need it.

For the most part, business owners in Sapulpa didn’t make much change in their business until they were forced to by the proclamations, except for a few:

Heart of Route 66 Vintage Market, at 115 E. Dewey Ave, maintained a consistent seven-days-a-week open schedule for as much as possible, though they had to close when they were not deemed “essential” to the public during the Coronavirus lockdowns. Owners Archie and Terri Fain told me it was a matter of common sense for them: “we have to be open when our customers are going to be here,” remarking how many of their customers began coming by regularly on the weekends and evenings when they found they had a place to go.

Because they were often working late into the evening making repairs or prepping for additional vendors, the Fains kept the doors open outside of their posted business hours, just in case someone wanted to stop by. “When we’re here, we’ll let you in. We’re not going to turn away a sale, especially if we’re going to be here anyway,” Archie said. 

Their popularity has continued to grow despite the rising COVID-19 cases, and in the next few months they’ll be expanding their store to take on even more booths. There’s even talk about a small deli restaurant operating in the back.

Speaking of restaurants, let’s talk about a new-ish kid on the block: Dick’s on 66, finally celebrating a full year in operation, has held to a steady promise of being open until 8:00 pm to feed hungry patrons for dinner.

Though not every night is packed, the restaurant’s commitment to evening hours has kept business steady and given the advantage of catching the benefit of irregular events in the area. Last November, when Sapulpa celebrated its annual Lights On event with the lighting of the Tree of Hope, Dick’s had a suprisingly packed dinner crowd for a Thursday night. Dick’s owner Angie Goins said they didn’t even know the event was happening until it did, and being directly across the street from the Tree of Hope meant they caught a lucky break that might’ve landed them a new swath of customers.

Let me remind you of what I said last year: in ten years, the Sapulpa you know is going to be different. Where will you be at that time?

All the data shows that despite dealing with a global pandemic, the business world in most cases, found ways to adapt, and as we slowly begin to work on either getting back to the way things were, or adjusting to a new way of doing things, we have to remember that the shopping habits of the average consumer have not changed: 70% of all consumer retail spending still happens after 6:00 pm and the best times for making money in retail are on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sapulpa continues to have new people coming to—or through—town. Many of these new folks are setting up shop here and will hopefully be around for awhile. Someday, if you’re not careful, you’re going to find yourself going under because you didn’t meet the demands of the customer you got into business to serve in the first place.

While Sapulpa is undergoing this metamorphasis involving the GO Bond, the migration west of Tulsa, and the move that people seem to be making back to city living, don’t miss out on your opportunity to capture the market with your amazing store. Stay open later. Stay open Sundays. Give people a place to go, and they’ll eventually come to you.

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