Local businesses cope with pandemic effects nearly two years later

The interior of Mack's as they clear out following their closure
The interior of Mack's as they clear out following their closure(WEEK)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:27 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - The pandemic’s toll on local businesses isn’t easing up, even almost two years after it began.

Mack’s on the Peoria riverfront opened in November 2019. For them, openings and closures were common at the start of 2020. But the final decision to close was made this past fall, with the pandemic not showing signs of an end. Owner Ken Allison calls the pressure on businesses like his “tragic.”

“Starting a business (is) a lot like having a child,” says Allison. “To see it not survive because of just sheer outside influence on how the economy is supposed to behave, it’s unfortunate, and it hurts, and it took a long time to make that decision.”

That closure marks the latest in a string for businesses across the area. Chris Setti with the Peoria Economic Development Council says it’s common for restaurants to fail, especially early on. He adds it depends on a lot of factors.

“Whether that’s weather, labor, people’s tastes, the competition that just opened across the street from you, it’s a difficult business for folks to go into.”.

But that’s not the case with all local businesses. Some — like LeBakery in Peoria — are expanding. A new location is planned to open in March at Keller station. One of the owners, Kevin Palermo, says it was all about making adjustments.

“Luckily, people still gotta eat. So we try to offer new items and things so that way we don’t bore people with the same cookies and things,” Palermo says. “So we try to kinda keep people entertained with new product.”

Chris Setti says businesses like these thrive for a variety of reasons. But the biggest is having a good client base to start.

“The ones that were able to succeed, first of all, they had a loyal following to begin with, and I think they were able to tap into that loyalty.”

Setti adds keeping options like online ordering available was also key, especially early on, and says most importantly: “Never underestimate the American entrepreneur.”

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