Cherokee-owned businesses slowly reopening
Staff and helpers at Robin’s Nest Flowers and Gifts in Pryor celebrate a successful Mother’s Day weekend after reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. COURTESY
PARK HILL – Cherokee-owned businesses in Oklahoma are cautiously opening their doors to the public, but many found ways to survive during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I’ve have a lot of people who want to come and dine in, but we have been open for to-go orders only,” Nancy’s Homemade Pies and Cafe owner Nancy Bryan said. “After the week and a half we were closed, we started doing curbside service. Everybody wore masks and everything.”
The Park Hill cafe, which opened in 2017, reopened to dine-in customers in mid-May under social-distancing guidelines, as allowed by the state’s Open Up & Recover Safely three-phase plan.
“We don’t have a whole lot of people dining in,” Bryan said. “Just a few at a time because we’re a smaller place. We can’t let a lot of people in our place all at one time. But it’s going good. We’re staying super busy.”
In Pryor, flower shop owner and Cherokee Nation citizen Robin Gordon weathered her storefront’s closure with deliveries.
“We closed for two and a half days then we got the OK that we could actually still deliver to funeral homes and homes doing contactless delivery,” said Gordon, who runs Robin’s Nest Flowers and Gifts. “But for the end of March and the month of April, we had about a sixteenth of what we usually do. What really hit me was we couldn’t really do funerals. That’s what really kind of sustains us honestly.”
Gordon’s flower business was also affected by cancelled proms and graduations.
“But we had one heck of a Mother’s Day because nobody could go visit their moms,” she said. “That kind of helped out a lot.”
Gordon reopened her doors to the public in early May, but to stay afloat she is relying on the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic. Without it, “My doors would probably not be open today,” she said.
“I’m thankful for the PPP, and I’m thankful that we had a fantastic Mother’s Day,” she said. “Without those two things, we would be in the dog house.”
Stilwell salon owner Cassie Ford took advantage of the first reopening wave in late April for specific personal care-related businesses. She’s since been “super busy” and “trying to catch up.” As far as the salon’s stricter safety guidelines, “Everyone has been very understanding,” she said.
The Cherokee Nation announced on May 8 its five-phased plan to reopen its government offices, including the opening of many of its tribal facilities on June 1. The fifth phase is a return to normal operations for the Cherokee Nation and will begin no earlier than Sept. 7.