Working Past COVID: Local businesses hopeful for the return of the ‘new normal’

TRI-CITIES, Wash — The coronavirus pandemic is something no one could have predicted and despite the many setbacks it posed, local business owners are remaining hopeful that they are on the road to normalcy.

Despite the major yearly revenue loss, Rollerena Skating Rink owner Alan Bacon told KAPP-KVEW the worst part of the pandemic was not seeing customers.

“This has been a family business for almost 70 years,” Bacon said. “It’s my second home and it’s more than just a place to make money.”

Bacon said when times got tough he decided to skate alone in the rink for exercise, but without the blaring pop music and blinding disco lights, it wasn’t the same.

“It’s a really strange feeling,” Bacon said.

His wife, Judy, said seeing her husband skate alone was “heart-wrenching.”

“The past year has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Bacon said. “We’ve been here so long that we have multi-generational families coming in now so I think we serve the community well. When we can’t do that, there’s a piece missing in our community.”

The duo also struggled with decisions regarding staffing.

“As time went by, those target dates kept getting moved out and we didn’t have solid information,” Bacon said. “How do you staff while not knowing if you’re going to be open in two weeks?”

Another local business that suffered due to the pandemic is Spare Time Lanes Bowling Alley in Kennewick.

General Manager Rob Watson said the shutdowns in March were disappointing but not surprising.

“Not working sucks. Not having something that drives you forward just is not fun,” Watson said. “It is the least productive year of my life, I can guarantee you that.”

Watson said at the start of the pandemic he would wake up every morning and instantly check the latest headlines and COVID-19 statistics.

“Every day it was the same routine of are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Watson said. “As the manager of an establishment I had to be ready at all times.”

Watson said the bowling alley’s peak season is from September to March so the shutdown was “jarring.”

“It’s absolutely insane the amount of money that has been lost during this time,” Watson said. “Everything had to be put on hold and that was really hard.”

According to Washington’s Department of Health, more than 4.2 million doses of vaccine have been given across the state.

As people continue to get vaccinated and new phases continue allowing places to reopen, both businesses agree the light at the end of the tunnel could possibly be near.

“You know the world does things on its own that we have no control over so the best that we can do is ride that wave whether its coming ashore or going out to sea,” Watson said. “We’re going to be riding it and doing the best we can to stay afloat.”