How Our Local Businesses Weathered the Covid Storm


Towns all across America felt the negative effects of Covid, especially towns that heavily rely on small businesses for their income. But how exactly did Covid affect small businesses right here in Easthampton?
Easthampton is home to more than 20 small businesses, from restaurants to clothing stores and even music venues, many of which opened within the past five years. When Covid hit in the spring of 2020, many had to shut their doors completely, or drastically change the way they operated.
Easthampton was booming during the early 1900s. Its location made it a prime spot for mills and factories (many owned by Samuel Williston) and soon the textile industry had taken over the town. However, the Great Depression hit Easthampton hard, and its economy faltered. It was never truly able to bounce fully back from the Depression to the prosperity it had seen at the turn of the 19th century. Since World War II, Easthampton has relied on small businesses and farms to sustain its economy.
In the past six years, Easthampton has changed immensely, with more new people moving to town, a vibrant emerging art scene, and of course many new businesses. But nothing changed things as much as Covid.
Beth McElhiney, owner of Wonderland, a vintage clothing shop she opened in 2019, says Covid hit her store especially hard.
“We had to close our store for months,” she said. “Even when we re-opened, people weren’t out and about and nobody was trying on clothes because we couldn’t open our dressing rooms.”
McElhiney is not alone in her frustration about the negative changes brought on by Covid. Caroline Rayner is an employee at Book Moon, a book store which also opened in 2019.
“Everything changed to curbside pick up,” Rayner said. “There was no browsing for a long time. There wasn’t any personal connection.” That connection is crucial for a small-town bookstore.
With fewer costumers and more inventive ways of marketing their products, store fronts definitely did not have an easy time. But what about music venues?
Rosie Porter, an employee at Luthier’s Co-Op, a guitar shop which also serveas as a bar and restaurant, told The Willistonian her venue “shut down completely for sixteen months,” but she added, “we were legally allowed to open in the last week of May, but we had incurred so much debt at that point that we weren’t able to open until we got a grant, and then were able to re-open the first week of August.”
Luthier’s has been a local establishment for 13 years, and sees a cast of regulars. Rosie noted, however, that “our regulars haven’t really come back.”
Although Rosie admits that the pandemic was rough, things seem to be getting closer to normal. New customers are coming to the venue, and live music is returning.
“We are basically back to normal besides wearing masks inside and being stricter with our cleaning protocols,” she said.