Like most small business owners these days, Jason Beaty has not had it easy.
The owner of the Clemson Variety & Frame Shop in downtown Clemson was closed for the majority of the last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the cancelation of spring sports, the spring football game, graduation and this week’s announcement that the Dabo Swinney Football Camps will be closed this summer, Beaty has lost 90 percent of his sells.
“When you take away May graduation, that was a gut-punch for my store,” he said.
Doug Zirbel, who owns Your Pie in Clemson which is located behind Clemson Variety & Frame on College Ave., says his restaurant is running at about 20 percent of normal sells for this time of the year.
“It is a pretty solid hit,” he said.
These are just two of the small business owners in Clemson that are trying to survive in an economy that has been hit hard because of the stay-at-home orders and the mandatory shutdowns of businesses in the prevention of COVID-19.
Your Pie’s primary focus prior to COVID-19 was its in-store experience which allowed customers the ability to create their own pizza while selecting their own toppings in a family-friendly atmosphere. These days, in an attempt to stay open and salvage what they can, Your Pie has closed its front doors and is only taking call-in or online orders.
Beaty closed the doors at Clemson Variety & Frame just prior to the mandatory order from the Governor to save a little money. It remained that way until this past Monday when he was able to open their doors for business for the first time in a month. However, there still isn’t enough foot traffic for Beaty to leave his doors open for eight-hour days, so he has cut the hours to 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
It has helped that Beaty did receive the small business loan from the federal government which has allowed him to bring his employees back for eight weeks. The business has done fairly well, otherwise, he says, with its online sells and thanks to loyal customers who have bought gift cards and brought items from home for him to frame.
“I have been very humbled over the last month at the outpouring of support that customers and the community have shown,” Beaty said. “They have said they want to make sure I am here when they are here in the fall and that they are going to help me out.”
With things slowly starting to open back up in downtown Clemson, Beaty hopes the sit-down restaurants can do the same, soon. And, like all local business owners in the Clemson area, he is hoping Clemson University and the Clemson Athletic Department can get back to regular operation, too.
Beaty says 25 percent of his sells comes from the month of May due to graduation and 30 percent comes from Clemson’s seven home football games each year.
In other words, the city of Clemson needs the Tigers to run down the hill at Memorial Stadium this coming fall. And, as Beaty points out, they need the fans to be there cheering for them, too.
“We are hoping people feel comfortable enough, and maybe they require everybody that comes to a football game to wear a mask. I don’t think that is an unreasonable expectation,” he said. “But are people, one, going to be willing to do that. And, two, are they going to feel safe enough to go into a stadium at that point in the year.
“I personally think that they probably would. I think, possibly, even if we do have some football games, even if they start in October, if we can have the normal amount of fans and if we can sellout the stadium and allow people to tailgate and be a ‘normal weekend,’ I think we can have record-setting sells for a football game because people will have cabin-fever. They have not seen Clemson Football since we lost to LSU. They did not have a spring game to scratch that itch. They are going to be ready at the gates for them to open. If we can have a regular football season, if we have it, especially with it being Trevor [Lawrence’s] last season, I think it can be a record sells season, if we have it.”
Though Clemson is planning for a football season, no one knows what to expect. However, Beaty isn’t sure how much of downtown Clemson will survive if football begins in the spring or, even worse, canceled.
“If we have an abbreviated season, and, again, if you start in October, it has to be what I consider to be a normal game,” he said. “There has to be tailgating. There has to be people showing up on Thursday night to stay in a hotel. Shopping on Friday. When we say start late, it still has to be a normal game.
“Who knows the regulations they could be thinking up, I don’t know. But what I am saying is they have to be regular games. So, if those games start in October, I would rather have that than starting in January.”
Clemson fans now is the time to support the local businesses.
A great gift for any Tiger fan. Just one of many great items available from Clemson Variety & Frame