When Gov. Jared Polis issued his stay-at-home order last month to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, businesses were allowed to remain open if their products and services were deemed critical to the public.

Among them: grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, hardware stores and auto repair shops.

Those not considered essential, though, were forced to close their doors — and some say they're being hit hard.

Among those that didn't make the cut: the nearly century-old Platte Floral in Colorado Springs. Sales of flowers, indoor plants, stuffed animals, candy and gifts effectively rendered Platte Floral a nonessential business in the state's eyes. The popular retailer, in business since 1921, temporarily closed March 26, the morning after Polis' order.

The impact was immediate.

With shipments of perishable flowers already in stock and more arriving, and no customers to buy them, Platte Floral threw out about $7,000 worth of merchandise, said office manager Vickie Shoptaugh.

"We're talking hundreds of boxes of flowers," she said. "We're not talking a flower arrangement. We're talking, maybe 45 dozen roses. That's just one type of flower. We might carry 25 different types of flowers every week. And so those were dumped.

Carryout and delivery not enough to sustain some Colorado Springs restaurants, who begin to shut their doors

"We still had shipments coming in because you can't stop that (supply) chain from coming in that fast," she said. "They come in from California and Florida. So they already had left dock on the 26th. It was sudden. You shut it down tomorrow. So those already had left dock. We have to pay the bills of those things that were still being shipped. We still owe all those companies. And those items came in to be dumped."

Platte Floral isn't alone.

Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Colorado Springs-area businesses — from large retailers to mom-and-pops — weren't considered to be critical under the stay-at-home order. 

Like Platte Floral, many expect to reopen after the order is lifted April 11, although there's an expectation Polis might extend the restriction until April 30.

Pandemic hasn't slowed construction on In-N-Out Burger, downtown stadium and other Colorado Springs projects

For now, here's a look at how the stay-at-home order and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic in general have affected some area retailers and businesses, both those that have closed and those that still are operating but are adapting to a new normal:

• John O'Neill has furloughed all 16 employees of Colorado Running Co., though he and co-owner Jeff Tarbert work a few hours every day to offer customers curbside pickup for shoes they bought through the store's new online site.

"We aren't taking paychecks, and curbside sales are making up only about 1% of the volume we had before" the coronavirus pandemic, O'Neill said. "Things seem to change every 45 seconds to two minutes. We are trying to be nimble and keep a little cash flow coming in."

Colorado Running Co., in the University Village Colorado shopping center on North Nevada Avenue, closed March 24, a day before Polis' order. O'Neill estimates the store could survive another three months of minimal sales, but hopes that isn't the case.

"We will make it no matter what. We've survived 20 years and made it through the Great Recession. I'm hoping that now that more people are going outside, some may pick up running," O'Neill said. "Small businesses are the heart of Colorado Springs. A lot of restaurants are staying open and trying to survive. People should buy local to keep these small businesses alive."

Carryout and delivery not enough to sustain some Colorado Springs restaurants, who begin to shut their doors

• Dave Leinweber is "hunkering down and trying to figure things out" so that his Angler's Covey shop survives the shutdown imposed by the governor's order.

Competitors Bass Pro Shop, Dick's Sporting Goods and Sportsman's Warehouse have remained open because they sell guns and thus are considered essential retailers.

Angler's Covey, on the city's west side, is closed to customers but is selling fishing merchandise and supplies by phone for curbside pickup on a limited schedule. The store laid off nearly its entire 16-person staff with a status they will be rehired when the store is allowed to reopen, Leinweber said.

"The outdoors has not closed," Leinweber said. "It is part of good public health to get outdoors to reduce stress, anxiety and get exercise. We just need to figure out a way to serve those customers responsibly."

• Cacao Chemistry, a downtown chocolate shop, wasn't forced to close by the stay-at-home order because it sells food. But that doesn't mean the business is thriving, said co-owner Sam Lang.

Sales are down 80% to 90% because many downtown employees are working from home, prompting Cacao to lay off two of its six employees and cut hours for the rest. The store is trying to survive on online sales and delivery through Grub Hub, Door Dash and other food delivery services. Lang said building the store's menu in each site has been difficult and full of glitches to overcome.

"People drive by on Tejon (Street), but they don't stop, even though there is plenty of parking and it is free," Lang said. "We are trying to help customers stay safe and maintain social distance, we no longer offer samples and we changed the way we check out orders."

Colorado dealers now selling cars online only under state restrictions

• Pikes Peak Glass and City Glass also have remained open because they are classified by state government as part of the construction industry, which is exempt from the stay-at-home order.

But the way the two affiliated businesses operate has changed; walk-in orders are no longer allowed and customers must call or go to the company's website to make an appointment.

Employees also ask customers whether they have any coronavirus symptoms before sending a worker on a job, said Chris Bole, president of Pikes Peak Glass and City Glass.

The company hasn't laid off any of its 90 employees, though sales are off about 20%. But overtime is no longer allowed and work schedules have been reduced, he said.

"I'm concerned the economy will get worse," Bole said.

• Seven employees at Splash Bath, a pet grooming business in unincorporated Falcon outside Colorado Springs, were without work after owner Alicia Skalitzky shuttered her business.

The governor's order to close was especially frustrating because Skalitzky thought pet industry businesses were exempt. As it turns out, she said, those that sell food are considered critical, but grooming businesses like hers are not.

"I really don't know what I'm going to," Skalitzky said. "I still have bills to pay."

Space Symposium rescheduled for autumn

She planned to pay her employees for their last two weeks of work. But she still has expenses such as rent for her storefront at The Shops at Meridian Ranch, along with utilities and her security system. She also had just placed an $800 order for supplies.

Skalitzky began a Go Fund Me page and offered donors a 10% discount for their next grooming service.  

"In a worst-case scenario, I have to go take a loan out just to pay the bills to keep the doors open," Skalitzky said. "Because I really don't want to close and I really don't want to put seven other people out of work."

She started her business five years ago in a 10-foot-by-10-foot  room, renting space from a veterinarian. In 2016, she moved to a 1,300-square-foot space at The Shops at Meridian Ranch with the goal of building her business and providing jobs.

"Now I feel useless," Skalitzky said. "I'm not like somebody, like a restaurant, who can serve to-go orders and still have some sort of income. We're dead in the water. I really think it's unfair because its not like we make contact with humans. We make contact with their dogs. It's frustrating, that's all."

• At the family-owned Garden of the Gods Trading Post, business had been booming through March 15, said co-owner Tim Haas.

The longtime Manitou Springs retailer, a favorite for tourists and local residents on the south side of the Garden of the Gods Park, sells T-shirts, mugs, postcards, books, jewelry, homemade fudge and many other items.

"We were running about 30% ahead of where we were last year," Haas said of March sales. "It was shaping up to be an absolutely fantastic month."

Then, everything changed. Sales began to fall as customers became more anxious and suddenly were hesitant to spend money, he said.

"It was like the water got turned off," he said.

As a result, Haas closed the Garden of the Gods Trading Post two days before Polis' order. He also shuttered four more Manitou Springs businesses — the Manitou Outpost, Mountain High Sportswear, Mountain High Gallery and Gifts and The Vault. The Spark and EllyBLUE in Old Colorado City also were closed.

The decision to close was a strategic one, Haas said. About half of the 82 employees working at the businesses were going to be furloughed, and closing early would give them a chance to beat the expected rush for unemployment benefits, he said.

Colorado first-time unemployment claims more than triple

The remaining core staff of 40 employees, some of whom have been with the Garden of the Gods Trading Post and the other businesses for almost three decades, will be paid through at least April 15, Haas said. He applied for a Small Business Administration loan available through the federal stimulus package and plans to use it to pay employees and hire back some who were furloughed.

Some employees who remain on the job work at a Manitou Springs warehouse that serves the Garden of the Gods Trading Post and other businesses. Warehouse/distribution and fulfillment centers were among businesses deemed critical in Polis' order.

Merchandise continues to arrive at the warehouse for the upcoming spring and summer tourist season, Haas said. Boxes that arrive are first set aside for at least 24 hours before they're unpacked by glove-wearing employees, who then sort, price and put away merchandise, he said.

Even as business grinds to a halt, Haas said he still feels good about the Pikes Peak region and its future. National publications have ranked Colorado Springs as a desirable place to live; tourism has been strong; and attractions such as the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and the rebuilt Flying W Ranch make the area appealing.

He plans to rehire workers when his stores reopen and add 70 college and high school students and part-timers by June 1 to help with the summer tourism season.

"It's a terrible time, obviously, from a loss of life standpoint, No. 1," Haas said. "Economically, if you look back at three weeks ago, the stock market was hitting records, there was low unemployment, record low.

"I think the fundamentals are still there for the economy to rebound," he said. "It tends always to rebound slower than it declines. But I am absolutely optimistic still about this season. ... This is a tremendous bump in the road, but it's one that we're going to get past."

• The Pink Cadillac Boutique also closed a few days before Polis' order. The women's clothier, art gallery and gift shop, at 1635 W. Colorado Ave. on Colorado Springs' west side, also sells jewelry, local arts, candles and lotions. It's easy to spot because of — what else? — a 1960 pink Cadillac typically parked out front, along with pink-framed doors and windows and a pink store sign.

At this time of year, Pink Cadillac Boutique would typically be busy with college kids home for spring break and tourists from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, said owner Lisa Harrington.

Space industry jobs grew in 2019 but industry since hit by coronavirus

But tourists weren't coming and business had dwindled, Harrington said. She also was concerned about the safety of family members who worked at the store and her customers.

"We erred on the side of caution," she said in deciding to close before Polis' order.

As a family-run business, nobody was laid off, Harrington said. Even with its doors closed, Pink Cadillac Boutique continues to sell items that can be ordered from its website, over the phone, via email or by sending Harrington a message on Facebook. The retailer offers free delivery or will schedule curbside pick-up, she said.

"All of those kinds of things to try to accommodate keeping people from congregating in large masses," she said. 

While the business is closed, Harrington said she'll check whether financial assistance is available through the federal stimulus package, though she's hesitant to take out a loan and get into debt.

Harrington said she fully intends to reopen Pink Cadillac Boutique.

She and her husband, Jess, launched the business in 2016 in a home they purchased on the west side, renovating the property themselves and turning it into space for a retail business.

But Jess died Dec. 6 while working at the store, she said. 

"It was a labor of love to open it," Lisa Harrington said. "It's been difficult to keep it open after his passing. But I kind of feel like there's so much of his energy there because he put so much work into it.

"I had a lot of people advise me to close after his passing. But I feel like I have to keep the doors open for him. So despite his passing, I keep the doors open. And even in lieu of all of this, I feel like I have to keep the doors open, too. So, we'll make it work."

Load comments