By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
Okay, so how are we all managing with this Coronavirus lock-down?
For this family, rather well. My wife returned from Fred Meyer the other day with (wait for it!) toilet paper! I, on the same day, had a conversation with a lifelong friend – who still lives in the Boston area. He mentioned that in his household they had over 100 rolls of toilet paper and that, other than their grown children (all of whom along with their own children), they were not sharing.
We have a neighborhood watch – which posts daily about the hyper local news items in our community. At first the postings were actually of interest. Things like packages getting stolen off front porches. But in the past few weeks, the “news” has been reduced to the rather mundane. Things like: “Mrs. Jones reported seeing two rabbits in her back yard” and/or “Mr. Smith fertilized his lawn.”
Our youngest son flew back to the East Coast today. He mentioned that on his flight out here two weeks ago, there were 17 people (including crew) on his Alaska flight. Well, his flight back home had increased to 19 (including crew).
What Alaska and all the others have done is to pare down the number of flights based upon loading factors. So, the most heavily travelled routes back pre-virus are now the surviving flights. One thing I noticed in driving him to Sea-Tac airport was there was a notable increase in car traffic on I-5. When I say noticeable, I mean much more than when I picked him up at Sea-Tac two weeks ago. I get the impression that our economy, for better or worse, is picking itself up very gradually – and slowly – Governor Inslee’s “stay home” order or not.
This publication published the list of restaurants offering curb side pick-up in the Mill Creek area. The Mukilteo Senior Association did the same for their town. One thing I can say is that our country is full of entrepreneurs. Whether told to or not, traditional small businesses are adapting to the new era of business.
What I foresee is that our so called “Gig Economy” is going to increase exponentially during the recovery. Some pundits have suggested that the only retail establishments left when this is all over will be Wal-Mart, Costco and Amazon. I respectfully suggest that this will not be the case. There is something to be said for hyper local business which is finely tuned to the needs of their customers.
Here is but one example. I wanted to purchase some herbicide to treat our bumper crop of horsetail. The particular brand I use is not readily available in most retail stores (Fred Meyer for example). So, I went on-line to both Amazon and Home Depot. Home Depot did not have it in our closest branch. Amazon, due to the large backlog of orders for just about everything, said the product if ordered would not arrive until early May. But right down the block in our local Ace Hardware, they had the product which I picked up that afternoon. Yes, it was a few bucks more than the Amazon price (actually not so when you included shipping cost). And there was actually a store employee who walked me (under six feet) directly to the shelf on which the product sat.
My observation about all this is that the local mom and pop retail store will survive – by specially tailoring their product/services to their hyper local market. My sports car, another example, is wonderfully maintained by a small independent shop on Capital Hill.
The federal relief program is notable by the fact that if you are a small business and you borrow money – any monies used to pay payroll is automatically forgiven (you don’t have to pay it back). This is just wonderful for keeping your valued employees on the payroll until business improves.
One thing I simply don’t understand is why our golf courses are closed. For an outdoor activity, it is the textbook definition of social distancing. When, if ever, are you within six feet of anyone else while playing golf. With a few rules changes, it is never. (Rules Changes: One person per golf cart, don’t use each other’s clubs, don’t pull the flag stick out of the ground, don’t “rake up” the sand traps). I predict as soon as each state’s governor starts to “re-open” things, golf courses will open up again.
Last observation: I have yet to hear anything like this: 1. Someone running out of their home screaming “we’re all going to die” or 2. Any example of someone going crazy and axing off their entire family.
Both my wife and I predict there will be an increase in the birth rate approximately nine months from now.