Swansboro businesses are finding ways to serve the public in the face of extreme restrictions forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Gov. Roy Cooper’s directive that there should be no groups of more than 10 people, bars, restaurants and businesses that serve larger groups of customers have been hit particularly hard.

Pizza Forno of Swansboro had been open four days when Cooper issued the order that restaurants and bars could only operate with take-out and delivery.

The restaurant and bar order went into effect on Tuesday, March 17.

For a business that has been in the works for so long – owner Sam Rahman has been at work on opening the restaurant for almost a year – the shutdown hit pretty hard.

“We were open for four days when we learned we’d have to close to dine-in customers at 5 o’clock,” he said. “We’re coping. Unfortunately, I had to lay off the staff. I feel bad for those guys. It’s just me and family.”

“It is a difficult time for everybody,” Rahman continued. “We have to switch gears.”

To comply, the restaurant is delivering pizzas to curbside for pickup. But, he said on Thursday, March 19, the response has been encouraging.

“We ran out of to-go boxes yesterday,” Rahman said.

Rahman also owns Swansboro’s Olea, which is more of a dine-in restaurant. He is offering a 10 percent discount on take-out.

“That’s just to help the community,” he explained. “We’re operating out of the window.”

Rahman said he has been pleased with customer response at both restaurants.

“The community has been very supportive,” he said. “Swansboro is a great community. That’s why we’re here.”

The Tideland News reached out to members of the Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce for information on how other businesses are coping with the COVID-19 restrictions. Many responded.

“We took an early spring break this week to prepare for a full virtual launch on Monday, March 23,” said Jessica Reigel, owner of Jessica’s Dance Academy.

The studio has created an online system of classes, a “Virtual Learning Pack and Plan,” according to Reigel.

 This will allow regular weekly classes to be delivered live virtually.

Swansboro Dance Studio and Emerald Isle Dance Studio will offer similar instructional opportunity, according to Heather Baile, the studio’s lead teacher.

Teachers will go online at a class’s appointed time and offer interactive instruction, Baile explained.

Through the Looking Glass has temporarily closed, according to David Pinsky, co-owner along with Hal Silver.

“Although we are not required by governmental action to close, people are listening to news reporting and staying sheltered and we applaud their actions to preserve their safety. Unfortunately because of the lack of traffic in downtown Swansboro and the expense required just to open the shop doors, we have chosen to close temporarily,” he explained. “This is creating hardships for all connected to Through the Looking Glass. Our valued and longtime employees are filing for temporary lay off unemployment benefits. It is hurting Hal and myself as owners of the business to do this but we cannot keep the doors open when there are barely any sales at all, let alone enough to make a small profit. We cannot open if we can’t cover our expenses. We feel like we have an obligation to downtown Swansboro as the major anchor of the historic district since we opened our doors in 1974.

“We hope things will return to a sense of normalcy soon and that our dedicated staff will again serve our community without fear of illness in the immediate future.”

As of “this hour,” Burrito Shak Swansboro is operating on an online and call-in order system only, according to owner Jessica Sosa.

“All financial transactions will be done online or over the phone as well,” she explained. “We will leave pickup orders at the door, or provide curbside pickup.”

And, Sosa pointed out, the situation could change.

Bogue Banks Realty is open for business with safeguards for agents, buyers and sellers, according to Carla Buckhold, owner.

“We continue to research and supply information to buyers, advertise homes and show properties under strictest safeguards,” she said. “Some homes and most of our listings will have virtual tours.”

The virtual tours offer images from drones as well as 3D videos of the homes.

“Our office is operating by appointment,” Buckhold said. The front door is locked and social distancing practiced.

Lisa Morton, DVM, owner, said Brigadoon Animal Hospital is open for business on all levels, but with a check-in procedure,

Customers must call on arrival and wait in their vehicles until they can be seen.

“We are encouraging people to stay home if they are sick, to have limited contact with their animals if they are sick or to have someone else bring in their animal if need be,” Morton said. “We are trying to limit walk-ins to those cases that are emergent or sick and are asking that people postpone elective visits such as nail trims and routine vaccines.”

For local clients who are homebound, Brigadoon offers delivery of medicine or pet food that can be purchased at the hospital.

“We can drop it off at their door and take prior payment by credit card over the phone,” Morton said.

Customers are encouraged to consider the hospital’s online services, according to Morton.

In her response, she also provided information taken from the AVMA website. It includes:

Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.

Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

If possible, have another member of the household take care of walking, feeding and playing with the pet.

If the animal is a service animal or the person must care for the pet a facemask should be worn.

Hands should be washed before and after any contact with a pet.

“Currently, the AVMA is encouraging lawmakers to designate those in the veterinary profession as essential workers to try to ensure that we do not have to close our businesses,” Morton said.

Mary Rawls, owner of Mary Rawls Realty Inc., said her office is open by telephone or for walk-in, but with social distancing encouraged.

For now, Dudley’s Marina is open and operating under normal business hours, Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday, 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m., according to Sammi Hammonds, office manager.

“We currently do not have fuel because we are working on hooking our new fuel tanks up, but hope to have fuel again by the end of April – hoping that these ever-changing restrictions don’t affect that project,” Hammonds said. “Our docks are open, our store is open, and we are still doing repairs on boats and trailers. We have been encouraging people to get out on the boat, as we are lucky enough to live in an area with plenty of wide open saltwater, where you can still safely practice ‘social distancing.’”

Dudley’s will continue to monitor regulations and close, if need be, according to Hammonds.

“As for now, we are still open for business,” she said.

The Salty Sheep Yarn Shop is open – offering local and long distance delivery – but is closed to customers.

“In the interest of keeping everyone safe we are closed to walk-in customers,” said Peggy Baddour, owner. “We are offering curbside pickup and shipping. Please bear with us as we try to navigate these scary times.”

Call (910) 325-0018 or email thesaltysheep@gmail.com for details on the curbside service.

Clearly, this is new territory for everyone, and no one can say how long the restrictions will be in place.

“We will see what happens,” restaurateur Rahman said. “We have to do the best we can.

“Together we’ll make it through this.”

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

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