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Eilenberger's Bakery manager Heather Melton. Business has slowed down since the COVID-19 pandemic, Melton said, but Eilenberger's will weather the storm.

Crowds continue to rush into national chains like Walmart and Target, frantically searching for the last roll of tissue or bottle of hand-sanitizer.

Smaller local businesses, however, have not benefited from a pandemic-induced buying frenzy. In fact, COVID-19 is dangerous to their health.

“We're all worried about not having a job next week,” Chris Keller, owner of Palestine's Pint & Barrel restaurant, told the Herald-Press Tuesday. “I have 20-plus employees. If we have to close for two weeks, that's a whole pay period.”

Like most small businesses, Pint & Barrel depends on weekly receipts. With more and more people self-quarantining and social-distancing, small local businesses are getting squeezed.

To stay solvent, they're getting creative.

“We have a to-go business, and we are urging people to eat outside, now that the weather's turning nice,” Keller said. “We're also considering doing away with menus, and having a large menu board posted inside.”

A married father of four, Keller said he shares customers' concerns. Members of his crew, he said, are going the extra-mile to keep the eatery clean and protect customers.

“If the city says we have to close, we'll do it, of course,” he said. “It will be tough, but we'll be back. The Pint & Barrel isn't going anywhere.”

Another local business synonymous with Palestine, Eilenberger's Bakery, is also feeling the pandemic pinch.

“We had a lot of customers last week come in to buy whatever they could to freeze,” bakery manager Heather Melton told the Herald-Press. “They apologized that they wouldn't be coming in for a couple of weeks, and assured us they would be back.”

Melton said the restaurant's to-go business and bakery catalog will keep Eilenberger's afloat, even if it must close to walk-ins.

“We're still busy,” she said. “We at Eilenberger's are praying for everyone during this crisis.”

Another local business leader has found a way to virtually connect with her customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Andrea Ivins, manager of Anytime Fitness, is providing free workout videos on her personal Facebook page for anyone who wants to get, or stay, in shape during possible quarantine.

“Members of Anytime Fitness already have access to the Anytime app on their smart-phones,” Ivins told the Herald-Press. “I think it's important for people to have that connection with a coach or trainer. I'll keep doing it as long as people want it.”

Officials at the Anytime Fitness corporation said they are working with communities and will follow all Centers for Disease Control and government guidelines.

The business guarantees to continue to uphold high standards of cleanliness by wiping down machines and surfaces and disinfecting thoroughly, multiple times a day.

The Palestine location will remain open, with a staff that is “hyper-aware” of the gym's cleanliness, until the company or city orders it to close, Ivins said.

“Of course, if you're feeling sick, or if you are in the high-risk group, please stay home and take care of yourself,” she said.

To support local businesses, financial experts recommend purchasing gift certificates or gift cards to use at a later date. Purchasing them directly from the store, rather than a third-party vendor, ensures all money will remain with the local business.

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