NORTHERN HILLS — Amid concerns over the continuing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, several local businesses throughout the Northern Hills have made the bold choice to forego the revenue stream generated by the hoards of visiting bikers, in the name of public safety.
“Ever since coronavirus started sweeping the nation … we’ve been making decisions kind of on a week-by-week basis,” said Rebecca Williams, one of the owners of Leones’ Creamery in Spearfish.
Lindsey Gillette, owner of The Junk Drawer & Naked Olive in Spearfish said she started watching social media to predict what kind of Rally week the Hills may see this year.
“I started looking through and I’m like, ‘everybody’s coming from everywhere,’ and … I want to keep myself, my family, and my locals healthy, so I’m just going to not be open,” Gillette said.
“There’s a lesson I learned from my father that I’m actually starting to put into practice,” said Kristen Bell, who owns Good Day Café and Dough Trader Pizza in Spearfish, both of which will be closed for Rally week. “That’s, ‘to follow your instincts.’”
The Pump House at Mind Blown Studio in Deadwood will also be taking a break for Rally week this year.
“We’re not too concerned with how much we make, it’s more about the safety of our employees and everybody who comes in,” explained Shelby Clarkson, manager at the Pump House.
Safety is at the heart of each business’s decision to close for Rally.
“It seems like things aren’t stable in our country right now with coronavirus,” Williams said. “In the state, I think, as a whole, and the community as a whole, looks pretty good; we’d like to keep it that way.”
“I hope we find that we’re being overly cautious, I hope that’s the case,” Bell added.
None of the above businesses would normally close their doors during one of the busiest business weeks in the Black Hills, but each local owner said they felt a responsibility not only to their employees, but also the community at large, to err on the side of caution. Bell said one of the driving factors in her decision was not being adequately staffed to handle the extra capacity the Rally would bring.
“Ordinarily, that’s probably just a bad business decision, but now it would be actually possibly physically dangerous,” she said.
All of the business said it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but throughout the past few months, the support they’ve seen from the community has helped put them in a position where they can choose discretion over dollars.
“I don’t think we’ll look back and say, ‘I wish we were open for Rally in 2020,’ and I don’t want to look back and say, ‘I wish we had been closed for Rally,’” Williams said.
“Am I going to miss the business, absolutely, but, you know, you’ve got to weigh the odds,” Gillette said.
Each business owner said they’re making the choice that is best for their business, employees, and the customers they serve. The last thing they want is for other business owners to feel condemned or put upon to follow suit.
“Ultimately, we’re serving an (indulgent) and fun experience and we don’t want our employees to feel unsafe, we don’t want our patrons and our community to feel unsafe while they’re her enjoying something like ice cream,” Williams said. “It’s just what was right for us.”
“This is a time when we get to give grace to each other and recognize that it’s OK for people to be having different responses (to the pandemic),” Bell added.
All of the owners expressed their appreciation to the community for, the support they’ve received leading up to and during the decision to close for the Rally.
“Their support in all of this has just been more than we could ask for so just a big thank you to Spearfish, the Black Hills, (and) our customer base,” Williams said.
“If they need stuff, olive oils, or vinegars, or crazy t-shirts, or whatever; get your shopping done local while you can,” Gillette said with a laugh.
“I feel very supported by our clientele and our community,” Bell said. “That’s rad; I love this community.”
“I appreciate everybody’s business and we’ll see them on the 17,th” Clarkson said enthusiastically. “And stay safe!”
Leone’s Creamery will be closed from Friday through Aug. 15; The Junk Drawer & Naked Olive will be closed from Sunday through Aug. 18; the Pump House at Mind Blown Studio will be closed Monday through Aug. 16; Dough Trader Pizza will be closed from Friday through Aug. 17; and Good day Café will be closed from Friday through Aug. 19.
Editors note: The list of businesses highlighted in this story is not intended to be exhaustive. There are likely other area businesses who’ve made the same decision; the Pioneer reached out to the ones we’d learned about.
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