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Concern grows among small businesses as COVID-19 cases continue upward trend

Small businesses in Sumter already hard hit by the coronavirus are bracing for the possibility of a second surge.

SUMTER, S.C. — Small businesses in Sumter already hard hit by the coronavirus are preparing for the possibility of a second surge.

"It's tough," J. O'Grady's General Manager Drew Estep said. "We’re already at 50 percent capacity, as much as we can do. For a small restaurant like this, it hurts you. Mom and pop like restaurants -- that’ll hurt you all day long.”

Businesses across the state have had to make adjustments.

"You make sure everything's sanitized even more," Estep said. "Try to follow the regulations and mandates."

As the winter season approaches and coronavirus cases continue to climb, he worries what the future will hold for small businesses like his.

“We’re implementing plans now if we do have another shutdown to where no inside dining, only outside dining," Estep said. "We're not willing to go anywhere. If we go down, we’re going down with a fight, a big one. So, we’ll implement to-go orders. Make it quick and easy for people as much as possible. We’ll just keep implementing whatever we have to do to keep our doors open.”

Credit: Kayland Hagwood
Drew Estep

RELATED: COVID-19 could close LaBrasca's Pizza if business doesn't pick up

According to state health officials, much of the Midlands, including Sumter County, now has a high rate of infection.

"In March ... I really just had to ask myself do I want to move forward with this business venture, if not this is a good time to close the doors," One Accord Owner Stephanie Dowling said. 

She stuck to her plan and decided to reopen her five-year clothing and fine art store in a new location downtown Sumter.

Credit: Kayland Hagwood
One Accord

"We’ve been in this location for a month now and downtown has been great for us," Dowling said. "I am concerned about it, but, you know, it’s out of my control. I feel like we just have to trust and we just have to keep doing what we know to do and keep putting one foot in front of the other and hopefully we’ll all be standing when this is over.”

Dowling added that locals can assist by choosing the shop at small, locally-owned stores.