Arkansas small business finally seeing positive impact from COVID-19 pandemic

“It’s like a light just switched and people were like, ‘I’ve got to take care of these little businesses that take care of me,’” said Stuttgart small business owner.

STUTTGART, Ark. — A small-town business is blown away by how many people have chosen to shop local.

“It’s like a light just switched and people were like, ‘I’ve got to take care of these little businesses that take care of me,’” said Kim Bethea, Stuttgart small business owner.

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Bethea has owned the Coker Hampton Gift Shop and Pharmacy for 24 years. It’s a place where customers can find all sorts of items that she then offers to wrap and mail out.

She’s always had her loyal customer base, but this year she’s noticed some new faces.

“I think you see it in small towns, maybe even more glaringly so, than maybe a large metropolitan area,” said Bethea.

The store owner believes the pandemic has directly played a role in people’s sudden realization of just how important it is to shop local.

“I just think with the woes and the worries of the economy, it’s put a focus back on why that support is so critical to schools, the hospitals, the police department, the roads, and all the things that that tax dollars support when you spend them locally,” said Bethea.

The Coker and Hampton shop has seen a large increase in business, even resulting in extending store hours for customers this holiday season.

“It’s really been a nice shot in the arm, actually,” said Bethea.

Customers are using the small-town business feel to their advantage. Many are learning they can receive immediate service, something they can’t always find at big box stores.

“You can’t phone up Amazon and say, ‘I need this gift, I need pictures of this gift, I need you to wrap it, get this card on it and deliver it to XYZ by 4 p.m. this afternoon,’ but you can at your local small business,” sad Bethea.

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Bethea hopes this isn’t just a temporary surge, but one that’ll last well past the pandemic.

“The support has been overwhelmingly wonderful, it really has been,” said Bethea.