HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Many small businesses across the state have closed their doors since the pandemic hit 10 months ago, but downtown Huntsville has a different story.
Chad Emerson, the President and CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. tells me that despite all of the difficulties in 2020, the core downtown area has had several businesses open and none close down.
“In particular, downtown food, beverage, and retail businesses in the core haven’t closed. You have seen a lot of cities with a lot of vacancies. We have seen openings,” says Emerson.
“In our annual meeting, our Downtown awards this morning, we recognized as nominees almost 10 different businesses that opened in the pandemic, just in the core.”
Emerson credits a tight knit group of owners and residents who live in the area as to why downtown has remained strong through the pandemic.
“It is rewarding to see several people say they are going to buy local or get to-go food from a restaurant rather than cooking at home, even if they are not comfortable dining at a restaurant,” says Emerson.
The businesses downtown have been sharing ideas with one another to make sure everyone stays successful. They aren’t viewing each other as competition. The camaraderie and support in the downtown area has truly made all the difference during this difficult time.
One of those businesses that opened during the pandemic is Canadian Bakin.
“All of the papers were signed before we knew about the pandemic,” says the owner of Canadian Bakin, Matt Johnson.
“Our opening week was really the week everything shutdown.”
Despite the challenges, Canadian Bakin is still hanging in there. Johnson is adjusting his plans on the fly, because he doesn’t know anything different than running his business in the middle of a pandemic.
Johnson is no stranger to Huntsville. He used to work at the Arsenal for around 10 years and then slowly worked his way into opening his own business.
He says online sales have saved Canadian Bakin.
“I still think eighty percent of our orders are online or to-go,” says Johnson.
He knows that no matter how bad things have gotten, they could always be worse.
“Everyone who has worked here has stepped up, and done by far better than I thought anyone could,” says Johnson.
“This place would not be anywhere near what it is now without the team that we have here. We are very lucky for the people that we have hired.”
Johnson knows that the community in Huntsville is special, and says the town is friendly to small businesses.
“The whole community has been wonderful and even other small businesses have been supporting each other,” says Johnson.
All of the hard work and resilience is paying off for Matt and his staff. Canadian Bakin just won 2021 Best New Business from Downtown Huntsville, Inc.
“It is unexpected, but I am grateful for it. I am glad it is working out, and people are enjoying it. I just wanted people to eat good bread,” say Johnson.