Orangeburg area businesses find ways to work; ‘We still have bills to pay,’ salon owner says
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Orangeburg area businesses find ways to work; ‘We still have bills to pay,’ salon owner says

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Local businesses are trying to keep working while staying safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

From banks to barber shops, businesses known for human interaction are working to maintain contact with their customers.

“We are committed to ensuring customers continue to get the help and service they need, and our bankers are proactively reaching out to customers to see how we can help during this difficult time,” South State Bank Regional President of Orangeburg and the Lowcountry Gene McConnell said.

South State Bank, like other banks, has closed its lobby areas due to the coronavirus.

Drive-thrus have remained open, and banks are finding other ways to conduct business.

Online and phone communications have been a norm for customer service, but McConnell said the bank also understands the need for more personal interaction.

“We are also working with customers who have needs beyond what we can offer via the drive-thru,” he said.

Banks like South State have implemented “continuity plans,” to allow critical functions to continue while limiting in-person meetings and travel. The bank has also stopped its Saturday hours.

At Orangeburg’s GrandSouth Bank, the drive-thru is open and anyone wanting to discuss a loan or open an account can call the bank and set up an appointment.

“These are difficult times for everyone and we are no more affected than anyone else,” Market President Michael Delaney said. “At this time all staff has been retained and are working.”

At Orangeburg's CPM Federal Credit Union, hours have been expanded at drive-thrus. Lobby services are available by appointment.

CPM Chief Operating Officer Shannon Pahula said the credit union is offering financial assistance including reduced-rate personal loans, loan extensions up to 90 days and overdraft protection transfers from savings.

The bank has increasingly re-purposed its staff to assist in the credit union's contact center or other areas that may need assistance with increased volume.

Employees have also been allowed to work from home in some instances.

"This program allows us to continue to offer and complete important daily functions such as ACH posting for payroll or preauthorized transactions, check clearing and other key functions," Pahula said.

‘Dramatic' times
in real estate

Orangeburg Realtor Kenneth Middleton said the coronavirus has had a dramatic impact on real estate.

“How we are handling it is not changing every day, but nearly every minute,” Middleton said.

With Orangeburg County services being disrupted and the courthouse closed to the public, he said law firms are having a difficult time checking titles in preparation for closings with some not being able to get title searches "done at all."

“I know everyone is working to keep things moving, but there are so many moving parts in a real estate transaction,” Middleton said. “It makes it difficult and oftentimes next to impossible to complete them.”

Middleton said property transactions currently in process are being closed with teamwork from law firms, lenders and title searchers, but there are questions how the ones not in the queue yet are going to be able to proceed.

“We have put several homes under contract over the last few days,” Middleton said. “We are trying to be safe and wise as people ask us to help them reach their goals despite the virus.”

“Sellers -- a lot of them are in the position regardless where they need to get their homes sold,” he continued. “It is a measure of risk on their part and on our part as we collectively move forward to the assessment of that risk.”

Citing the S.C. Association of Realtors, Middleton said the number of homes for sale taken off the market during the pandemic statewide has risen to about 16 percent over the last week, up from 3 percent before the pandemic. He did not have any local numbers.

The impact of the coronavirus is impossible to measure at this point, he said.

“It is dramatic, and dramatic would not begin to describe what is going on. It is unprecedented to say the least,” Middleton said.

One saving grace during this time of social distancing has been technology.

Email and phone communications have become the norm.

“You can put contracts together without ever seeing the people in person,” he said.

On the practical level, Middleton said showing homes has also proven a challenge.

Agents are taking steps such as wearing gloves and masks, and using disinfectants and hand sanitizers when showing homes. The agency is also practicing self-distancing.

Middleton fears the region has yet to feel the full force of the coronavirus.

“We have not seen it yet,” he said. “Hold on tight.”

Barber shops
and beauty salons

The Right Touch Barber Shop owner Roderick Davenport said his shop on Russell Street has seen business plummet 85 percent to 95 percent since the coronavirus hit.

On average, about eight to 10 customers come in on a day compared to between 30 to 40 customers before the coronavirus.

“A lot of customers are not coming,” he said. “It is real slow, but we understand that.”

He said he is not sure how long he will be able to survive should the virus continue for several more weeks. Thus far, he has not had to lay off any of his five employees.

Davenport said employees are following all the necessary precautions, such as spraying down surfaces and wearing masks and gloves while cutting hair.

“We want to make sure we are keeping our customers safe,” he said. Then shop is asking customers to stay home if they feel ill or have a cough.

Unlimited Essence Hair Salon owner Nakia Rivers said she continues to remain open, though business has slowed.

She is unsure how long the situation can last or whether she will have to close her doors.

“I am hoping the government will help small businesses,” Rivers said. “I don’t know how true it is, but I am hoping we have to do income supplements. We still have bills to pay.”

Rivers, who is joined with one other individual at the salon, said the business is taking the necessary precaution of informing customers to stay home if they are symptomatic.

She has also resorted to wearing gloves during the time of service, though she says the salon has always put an emphasis on proper sanitation.

Rivers said she is thankful that the state has yet to shut down salons and barber shops, but the future is uncertain. She hopes it doesn’t get to that point.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” Rivers said.

Rivers said one challenge has been taking care of her children while she is working. With schools and daycares closed, her young children are having to be with her at work during business hours.

“The kids are home more and there is nothing for them to do,” she said. “The kids are bickering, and I am having to help them with their homework.”

“Overall, it has been a challenge, but I do have faith and pray that I am covered and my kids are covered and that everybody is covered,” she said.

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