Murray Anderson owns three businesses in Newton, and his father, Phil, owns the oldest retail store in the city.
All of those businesses have remained open during stay-at-home orders issued by Laura Kelly. Those orders were recently extended through May 3 as the state fights the spread of COVID-19.
Staying open has not been easy — and business is, in three of the four family businesses, slow.
“Even at my age I have never seen anything like this before,” Phil Anderson said.
He’s 87. The store he operates, Anderson Book and Supply at the corner of Broadway and Main, has survived the Spanish flu, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession of 2008 and everything in between.
This, however, is a new experience.
“Every place is a ghost town,” Phil Anderson said. "It’s lousy. We’re just hanging in there. We are open six days a week because we sell supplies for people that work from home. That is getting us by.“
Anderson’s is defined as essential because they sell supplies for business and home offices. His son Murray’s three businesses have stayed open as essential as well — a liquor store and two food service stores.
Of his three businesses on 12th street, the hardest hit during the stay-at-home order is his restaurant — Gurty’s Burgers and Shakes. The store does not have a drive-thru, though it is offering curbside pickup as the dining room is closed.
“Places that have a drive-thru are at an advantage right now,” Murray Anderson said. “You see two lines, rather than the traditional one, at McDonald’s drive-thru backed up to Main Street.”
His restaurant sales are down close to 60% this month.
“Typically a restaurant has one week cash flow,” Murray Anderson said. “When you are doing 40% of what you did, you will run out of money. ... I chose to keep my restaurant open and pay my employees. People depend on those paychecks. The unemployment office is just a nightmare right now.”
The Kansas Department of Labor has been beset with delays as claims have jumped more than 2,000% in the last few weeks.
That’s not to say he, and other restaraunts in town, have not seen community support.
He’s seen social media posts to community groups designed to remind people of the local restraunts in Newton. That list includes places like Genova’s, Panda Kitchen, Great Wall, Le Jay’s Barbecue, Back Alley Pizza, Aculpulco Mexican Restaraunt, El Torro, El Cerito, Aki Japanese kitchen, Curtis C’s, Kiko’s, Mojo’s, Norm’s and Under 701 Café.
Those posts encourage people to call in an order and pick it up curbside.
“I do the same thing,” Murray Anderson said. “I did a carryout from Curtis C’s just the other day. ... Newton has a nice mix right now, and it would be sad to see that go away.”
And some support has come in the form of gift card purchases — Conrade Insurance stepped forward and bought more than $10,000 in gift cards from local eateries. Charlesen Insurance followed suit with gift card purchases as well. Just this week someone bought $500 from Gurty’s.
“It is support like that you are happy to live in a small town like Newton,” Murray Anderson said. “I want to say thank you.”
Still, he said he plans to apply for the next round of small business aid and loans from the federal government when approved despite an aversion to borrowing money to pay routine bills.
His 12 Brew Drive Thru, a coffee shop, is “doing well,” as is his liquor store, where customers call in orders and get curbside pickup.
Some local eateries have closed — like Chong’s, Charlie’s and the Breadbasket. Dozens of service businesses not dubbed as essential have been closed for weeks as well.
Some will not return.
“If you were weak going into this, you will not survive,” Murray Anderson said.
And it is not known yet how long this will last. The governor’s order will expire May 3, and planning for reopening the economy is underway at the county and state level.
No one knows just yet what that might look like.
“It is time to get over this, isn’t it? This is something that we have never been through before,“ Phil Anderson said.
“Our world is changing every day,” Murray Anderson said. “We have our fingers crossed that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”