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'It's been really hard' | East Tennessee small businesses still feeling COVID-19 impact

From local delis to barbershops, East Tennessee businesses are trying to hold on to hope.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two weeks ago, Halls Deli's dining room started to look empty. That left its owner Oscar de Cardenas a little uneasy.

"Who would have thought," he said back then.

Today things look a little different since the state issued several different guidelines and executive orders to limit non-essential activity and gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The deli is now only taking phone orders and providing curbside service. But de Cardenas said some days are still slow.

"It's been hard, it's been really hard," he said. 

Patti Dunkin knows that feeling all too well.

"It's really hard," she said. 

Her Maryville barbershop is now closed, as it's one of many considered a non-essential business under Gov. Lee's 'Safer at Home' executive order. Before the order was issued the shop had faced some difficulty, too.

"Our sales were down before that by about 75%," she said. 

Now Dunkin is not only concerned about herself, she is also thinking of her other barbers.

"One of my barbers is a single mom and she still had to pay for daycare even if she is not working so she can save her spot for her daughter," Dunkin said. 

Changes to every day life are also happening at River Sports. Two weeks ago, owner Ed McAlister said business was slow and that continues to hold true.

"Things have really slowed down," he said.

But nevertheless they are still trying to do what they can.

"We are doing what we feel is necessary to provide some essential services to help people get outside essential transportation," McAlister said.

With millions of businesses in limbo across the country, these local businesses are just trying to keep some hope alive.

"We're just trying to make ends meet," Dunkin said. 

For many of them, the future is hard to think about.

"Unknown, unknown. I can tell you for the end of this week, but I can't tell you for the end of next week. I have no clue,"  de Cardenas said. 

In the meantime, they are just doing what they can with what they have.

"We look forward to things getting back to order, we miss our work. We miss our customers," Dunkin said. 

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