CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Small businesses on the corner have been struggling since the pandemic sent students packing this spring. While football season brings some hope, with attendance limited to family of players and coaches shops and restaurants say the lack of foot traffic will still sting.
“The best part of my entire year as a small business owner is football so it’s pretty devastating,” Finch Boutique Owner Jocelyn Churchman said.
Just like every aspect of life, the Coronavirus pandemic is now taking its toll on the college football season which is a lifeline for small businesses in college towns.
“I think it’s a little bit overwhelming mainly for at least as a small business owner," Churchman said. “We don’t know what the future is going to bring.”
The 'Hoos are entering one of the teams’ most anticipated seasons in recent years. That makes it even harder for Cal Mincer of Mincer’s UVA Sportswear to see the pandemic’s effects bleed into the season.
“We’re gearing up for what was about to be our best football season in a long time and we were still just removed from that basketball championship so It’s definitely a lot slower, but we’re hanging in there,” Mincer said.
At Mincer’s, the home opener is one of their busiest weekends of the year. The pandemic has forced them to make dramatic changes.
“I mean, a typical football weekend, three hours before the game and after the game, this place is packed," Mincer explained. "Now, even if they want to, we limit 10 people in here at a time.”
Churchman says football season, like this whole year, will be different.
“Its difficult to know how much merchandise to purchase, whether or not you’re gonna get a text saying one of your employees is in quarantine,” Churchman said.
Mincer and Churchman say there is a silver lining. Even though the general public is not allowed in the stadium yet, the appeal of Cavaliers football is still bringing some people back to Charlottesville.
"There will be some people and I’ve seen in the last couple weeks a few familiar faces, because you know alumni still want to come and support in whatever way, even if they’re watching it, you know, from the distance,” Churchman said.
“I know there won’t be a lot of fans there but I think, I mean, as long as the Cavaliers are playing on TV, people who are watching them, they’re getting excited, They’re winning games. I think that’s gonna help us a lot," Mincer said. "No matter how many fans are in the stadium or on the corner.”
UVA kicked off its season with just a thousand fans in the stand, as attendance was limited to family of players and coaches. The Cavaliers beat the Duke Blue Devils 38-20.