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The American flag on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Pearl Street proudly waves in the late afternoon Ellensburg breeze. Signs on the Red Pickle front window on Pine Street are filled with inspirational messages to keep spirits up.

Signs like “Kittitas Strong,” or “Smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest of intentions,” reminds us all that life goes on as health care providers around the globe work to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home closure notice is extensive but includes many exempt business categories. While most small retail businesses are closed, there are businesses that fit into the exemption list including obvious selections like grocery stores and pharmacies, but also mail and package delivery like the UPS Store and the Postal Service, bakeries like ABC Donuts, Daily Bread and Mercantile and Vinman’s, newspapers, like the Daily Record, and, bicycle shops and hardware stores.

Restaurants can also continue providing take-out and delivery. A number of Ellensburg restaurants tried for a week and have stopped but some continue to do so. If you have a favorite restaurant, check its website or Facebook page to see if it is still providing service.

With mandatory closures, social distancing, it is anything but business as usual in Ellensburg, but business owners and merchants are continuing keep their best foot forward to keep commerce alive as the nation rides out the storm of coronavirus.

“Some days are better than others. We had six deliveries yesterday and not a one today,” said Gail Munden, who along with her husband, Bill, owns The Soup Bowl on Main Street. “We’re nowhere up to where we were. But there’s a few dollars coming in and it’s better than nothing.”

DOWNTOWN TRAFFIC

Foot traffic through the historical downtown is at a minimum. With art galleries, bars and restaurants all on the closure list and others following suit, traffic is limited.

But one of the largest establishments with a 76-year track record is still holding its own on Pearl Street. Woods Ace Hardware has had some of the business shifted to ordering online and picking it up at the store. But Norman Woods continues to staff 10 employees and still sees a steady stream of customers.

“We’ve been selling a lot of masks, gloves, disinfectants, things like that people are using to sterilize their houses. In fact, we’re all sold out,” Woods said, standing in the main aisle with employees and customers scooting by. “Because of the run, our warehouse is out of all of those items. So, we’ve gone to a stock reserve back order.

“As soon as were in line to receive, we’ll get those items back on the shelves. With some items it’s the end of March, but with others it’s looking like the middle of May.”

FIXTURE

Woods Hardware has been a fixture in downtown Ellensburg for over seven decades. Even with school closures, businesses temporarily closing their doors, there is still a need for the hardware business and since people now have time for put-off projects, they are catching up, Woods said.

“What people are doing is a lot of home repair jobs. Plumbing stuff is being sold. People want to catch up on painting jobs, so we’re selling a lot of painting supplies right now,” he said. “There’s also a lot of general repair.”

Customers weren’t spending a lot of time browsing the aisles well stocked with anything from lawn mowers to plumbing supplies, electrical, gardening, and everything needed in a well-stocked hardware operation.

“A guy still needs a ladder,” Woods said with a smile.

THE SOUP BOWL

Where the hardware business is business as usual, the restaurant business is anything but, Munden said. She’s running a one-woman show at The Soup Bowl, preparing four different soups daily, as well as prepping for other items on the full menu still available. Where Fifth and Main is ideal for foot traffic, her business is delivery and take-out for the time being.

“I don’t have any overhead, but you still have to pay rent and the other bills coming in. So, we’re just trying to keep it going with homemade food made fast,” she said. “It’s just me, but I do have two family members on call for deliveries.”

The daily grind at The Soup Bowl means Munden comes in and prepares four vats of soup, which takes up to three hours to simmer.

“I try not to over prep, but I do have things ready for when I do get an order,” she said. “The menu is the same, I’m just trying to be prepared, since it’s only me getting on the phone and arranging for pick-ups and deliveries.”

ABC DONUTS

ABC Donuts at 304 Pine St. is still providing a little something for the sweet tooth, the aroma of fresh donuts still lingers through the shop, but things have been quiet lately costumer service employee Lena Te said.

“The baker comes in early to make the donuts, but it’s just me during the day,” she said. “It’s been pretty quiet lately.”

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