Visitors prepare for a ride on the trolley on Friday afternoon on North Main Street. Hannibal's small businesses have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors and local customers have been providing support to local businesses by choosing them over large chains, and businesses like Dutch Country General Store and Charlee and Tru Boutique have opened recently.

HANNIBAL — Visitors to Downtown Hannibal prepared to ride the trolley on Main Street as patrons shuffled by on the sidewalk along North Main Street on Friday, reflecting the growing vitality of Hannibal’s small businesses and restaurants as they continue to adapt to serve their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hannibal Executive Chamber of Commerce Executive Director McKenzie Disselhorst said many small businesses and restaurants are operating a lot closer to normal levels as they have adapted with changes for 2020 like increased social media presence, online sales and curbside delivery of food, goods and services. Funds from the Small Business Administration, the Department of Economic Development and the CARES Act helped offset losses businesses experienced earlier on. Unlike the situation during 2019’s flooding, Disselhorst feels visitors are more aware that Hannibal’s businesses are open.

“I think a lot of businesses have been doing that on their own, and I think a lot of that has happened naturally — especially with our proximity to Illinois and a lot of people over there knowing Missouri has been more open throughout the pandemic,” Disselhorst said.

Kenna Bogue, marketing coordinator with the Historic Hannibal Marketing Council and general manager of Mark Twain Dinette, said initial questions about whether businesses were open faded more quickly than they did during the flood. Local businesses are reaching out online like they were when they couldn’t see each other in person due to the pandemic. Disselhorst stressed business owners are finding a balance with their level of posting and promoting in regards to sensitivity related to COVID-19 while serving their customers.

For now, larger gatherings and events have been put on hold, and Disselhorst said businesses and restaurants are adapting while continuing to hold events with changes for safety. Bogue said the annual tradition of the Living Dead Windows will return from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24, and the street will remain open so pedestrians and visitors in vehicles can enjoy as local business storefronts come to life with Halloween-themed scenes.

Local business owners have kept in contact with Disselhorst for updates from meetings with community leaders like Bogue and Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council Executive Director Corey Mehaffy. Disselhorst expressed her gratitude for Marion County officials who provided CARES Act funds for businesses in their time of need.

Disselhorst said businesses have implemented changes like online services and curbside pickup which could continue after the pandemic situation changes. Bogue said Mark Twain Dinette has been offering curbside pickup along with its traditional drive-up service and in-room dining — all employees and customers are wearing face masks in the dining room for safety. Bogue noted curbside delivery has been adopted at various business in the community.

The coronavirus situation has brought potential positive scenarios for local businesses as well — Disselhorst said expected delays in holiday deliveries could lead more customers to stop by local stores where there isn’t a holdup on the gift they want.

Charlee and Tru Boutique opened last weekend, and the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for Dutch Country General Store. Disselhorst said it’s exciting to see new businesses opening and expanding local investment during this time. Bogue agreed business is rebounding thanks to local teamwork and support.

“And just continuing to make those choices — however small, like choosing to buy something local versus buying at big chains — really has helped a lot during this time,” Bogue said. “Supporting all the local restaurants and all the local and small businesses, I think it’s been something that’s been an asset in our community right now.”

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