Editor’s note: This article is one in a series on how Xenia’s small businesses have weathered and persevered through 2020.
XENIA — Coming into 2020, Route 68 Owners Rob and Danielle Eldridge were like other business owners.
They had expectations and goals they wanted to achieve. But in March, coronavirus became a major hindrance for the entire country, especially the small business community. Non-essential businesses were forced to shutdown for months. But Rob and Danielle refused to give in.
“Honestly, I am not so doom and gloom. When we shut down, it was rough. We were looking at a better year,” Rob said. “We had to refocus and focus more on online business. We focused on using the shutdown to deep clean and reorganize the store. We had to buckle down and say that we would make it through this.”
That was made more difficult because Route 68’s staff consists of two people — the owners. They already had a lot of work to do. Adding in dealing with a pandemic just made their work much more difficult. But they pressed on.
“My faith got me through it,” Rob said. “God and God only got me through it.”
For any business, the challenges brought forth by COVID-19 were significant. But for Route 68, the challenges are doubled because of the business set up.
“I have two arms of my business: shows and the store,” Rob said.
Most conventions were cancelled but Route 68’s in Xenia went on.
“In May, we were the only convention in the entire country that took place right here in Xenia, Ohio at the Greene County Fairgrounds,” Rob said.
But even that wasn’t easy.
“Even putting on a show, expenses were more,” Rob said. “COVID-cleaning and show signage were issues. Having hand sanitizers around the place and cleaning door handles were expensive aspects. We were able to handle the issues.”
When Route 68’s convention took place, the entire process was run in a very efficient and safe manner.
“Government officials with the State of Ohio took notice and were impressed,” Rob said. “As a result of the good work Route 68 displayed with its convention, other conventions and events (around the state) were given permission to be held.”
To help prevent COVID shutdowns from becoming permanent for smaller businesses, financial assistant was made available. But Route 68 could not partake.
“I took no government funds,” Rob said. “We did not qualify for government funds. When it got to the point where we could potentially get funds from the City of Xenia, the funds were gone.”
Despite that, some unexpected positives even came out of the COVID pandemic.
“We have a mindset now of thinking about germs and surface cleaning,” Rob said. “For shows, keeping eyes on crowd sizes and distancing are important issues.”
Reach Darryl McGee at 937-502-4534