'New normal': Black Mountain businesses say they have adjusted

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Louise's Kitchen serving customers in downtown Black Mountain on Aug. 27, 2020.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Louise’s Kitchen owners Amanda Schaefer and Charissa Gulotta decided to have their restaurant remain open when businesses began to close in March. Early on, they say days were “terrible,” but now business has adjusted to a new normal.

The adjustment to new conditions came naturally.

“I think we’re pretty adjusted,” Schaefer said. “We try to find better ways to do everything all the time. I mean, that’s what restaurant people do. Just adapt. Our days are like that anyway.”

Louise’s Kitchen, now limited to less seating, had “some $200 days” to complement others that beat last year. Gulotta said to-go and pickup orders amount to 25% of each day’s business, “with a lot more than ever” using the two options.

David Teske, manager of Kilwin’s Black Mountain, said while his July numbers were down 29% compared to last year, he’s now equal with last August. 

He says tourists are still visiting and buying products.

“You can’t go to football games, can’t go to basketball games, can’t go to baseball games, can’t go (see the) Tourists,” Teske said. “A lot of people aren’t doing theme parks and stuff, so they’re coming to the mountains.”

As local schools are adjusting to virtual learning, traffic downtown consists of more kids during the day, he added. Without ongoing summer camps and other visitors, the town has relied on business through property renters.

Most businesses are limiting traffic inside stores, with all requiring face masks and social distancing. Teske, in addition to Gulotta and Schaefer, decided to not close Kilwin’s despite the decision of neighboring stores to close.

Lynsey Smith, co-owner of Mountain Fairy Hair, closed her store in March before reopening in May. She says business after reopening “was actually about the same all the way through” August.

Adjusting to a four-customer capacity and enforcing masks was difficult at first, Smith says. Through three months, she’s “pretty much adjusted; it’s a new way of life around here.”

“I’ve become a bouncer having to remind people to put on their mask and all those kinds of things,” Smith said. “It has been super strange.”

Schaefer said she has enjoyed watching the process of customers complying to new rules.

“The coolest thing is watching people kind of do everything differently at every place that you go,” Schaefer said. “They’re just like ‘What are the rules? We’ll do them.’ And then there’s a few people that don’t, but then you start to have a little heart-to-heart.”

Though all have expressed optimism with success in August, Teske says the dynamic of customers downtown is changing. Projecting toward the end of the year is difficult.

Seeing how the new normal resembles the old is the challenge.

“Everybody’s got their fingers crossed, because will October be the same as last year?” Teske said. “We’re wondering how close to normal we might be.”