The past month has been a trying time for every city and small town in America. Statewide stay-at-home orders due to the novel coronavirus outbreak have prevented people from patronizing local businesses, prompting some difficult decisions about the future.
Many small business owners in the Yakima Valley aren’t sure if they are going to make it once the restrictions are lifted. But here in Selah, the prospects for survival may be a little better than in other towns.
“We know we have to keep each other going, and the people of this town always support local businesses,” said Mayor Sherry Raymond, who also owns King’s Row Drive-In at 210 S. First St. “I’m sure people in other communities are like this, too. But we are very fortunate here in Selah.”
Raymond said King’s Row has been minimally affected by the non-essential business shutdown instituted by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23. Her dining room has been closed, but the cars and trucks just keep filing in.
“We have been so busy, to the point that I almost feel guilty,” she said. “It’s not just at lunch and dinner. It’s all the time. Every day is like a weekend.”
Raymond and her family have been sharing their good fortune around town, ordering takeout from other mom-and-pop restaurants every week. She’ll even buy a specialty coffee drink from a locally owned drive-thru stand — “and I don’t even drink coffee.” For the majority of Selah residents, it’s all about lending a helping hand to their neighbors.
“All the businesses here have a following, and all of their customers will return as soon as it’s safe,” Raymond said. “For now, we’re just helping out wherever we can.”
Another longtime local business owner, Bill Harris, has been faced with an entirely different situation over the past few weeks. Due to the shutdown, Bill Harris Used Cars, at 608 S. First St., has been unable to sell vehicles to the general public since late March.
Initially, the service department was allowed to stay open and the dealership could sell cars by appointment. But in early April, the governor extended the moratorium until May 4, creating a far more tenuous situation for Harris’ team of 19 employees.
“It’s not a matter of if you’ll lose money, but how much you’ll lose,” he said. “We have applied for the stimulus program, so we’re hoping to get that check so everyone on our team can get through this.”
Harris isn’t sure when his staff will be back to work full time, but like Raymond, he’s hopeful that things can return to normal over the summer.
“We’d like to get going again by June 1, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Other businesses in town also face an uncertain future, but Raymond continues to have faith in her hometown of 44 years.
“I think Selah will continue to support Selah,” she said.
Wearing her mayor hat, Raymond said the most disappointing outcome from the shutdown has been the cancellation of Selah Community Days. The annual celebration in late May celebrated 100 years in 2019, and organizers were looking forward to beginning “The Next 100 Years.”
City officials and business owners conferred a few weeks ago before ultimately deciding to pull the plug.
“The cutoff date to reopen everything (May 4) was just too close to the event, and it would have been a shame to put all that money and time into something and have to cancel it,” Raymond said. “But we’re hoping for a Fourth of July celebration so everyone can get together again.”