When Tom Bowe closed Take It Away Sandwich Shop on the UVA Corner in March, he wasn’t sure when—or even whether—his 28-year-old business would reopen.
“We were definitely headed in a very specific direction,” he said.
Bowe and his employees weathered the spring and early summer with the help of a Paycheck Protection Program loan. They reopened in August.
By early September, when students returned to Grounds, grab-and-go business on the sidewalk outside the shop was steady, but not nearly what it was before the coronavirus pandemic forced an abrupt shutdown.
The same held true all around the business district, where merchants who were able to move to the sidewalk generally did better than those whose business model depends on people coming inside and staying a while.
“We’ve had a really good summer,” said Mark Lorenzoni, co-owner of Ragged Mountain Running, a Corner fixture for 39 years. The store moved some merchandise outside, and employees conducted shoe fittings under tents on the sidewalk.
“We’re not cocky,” Lorenzoni added. “We’ve been really lucky to have this protocol.”
Others were not as fortunate. Littlejohn’s Delicatessen remained closed. Organizers of a GoFundMe campaign announced Sept. 19 that they would not be able to raise enough money to save the popular eatery, which opened in 1976.
Restaurants, bars and nightspots advertised happy hours and food specials but faced state and local regulations limiting capacity and University dictates against students congregating in large numbers.
“I am not sure how any brick-and-mortar business can expect to survive this type of environment, especially with the winter right around the corner,” Andy McClure (Com ’01), owner of The Virginian, wrote in an email. “I would argue that the hardest hit spot in the entire area is the Corner, and it most likely will never be the same.”