The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Boonville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Esser from taking time to reach out to businesses in the historic district. She is working to get business information to the public through the chamber website.
“The only person that comes in on a regular basis is the postman,” she said. “On a normal day I would be planning for Heritage Days and the [July 4] fireworks display, as well as the day to day operations.
While the chamber office is closed to the public, Esser is usually in her office Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Chamber has to be creative during this pandemic. Most meetings with Esser and the 16 member board take place virtually through Zoom.
The Chamber is supporting member businesses working to get people to come to town, she said. The historic district downtown gets a lot of the focus, but the Chamber is supporting all Boonville businesses and the chambers of New Franklin, Pilot Grove, Marshall and Sedalia, among others.
Esser now is communicating with businesses mostly by phone or email, as well. Most merchants had closed their doors but a few have remained open like the banks. Busineses in Missouri were able to reopen Monday under Gov. Mike Parson’s Show-Me Recovery plan.
“[Banks] all have drive-thrus,” Esser said. “I have also noticed that some banks have posted notices that if you need a meeting, you can talk to some individually. Other downtown merchants also have put notices on their doors to call if you need an appointment.”
Other local businesses are moving toward online sales to help stay in business.
Heritage Days and the July 4 holiday
Decisions on community events like Heritage Days and July 4 celebrations are still pending.
“Once we know something by May 15, we’ll have a month and a half to try and put something together,” Esser said. “[It may be] something that is smaller or more of a scaled down version. Fourth of July fireworks comes shortly after Heritage Days.”
The chamber is working hard to at least have July 4 fireworks.
“We don’t want people to be disappointed, but also don’t want people to [get] sick,” Esser said.
The chamber is following guidance from the Cooper County Commission and the Cooper County Public Health Center on how to move forward.
Social distancing is still in place through at least the end of May, and that may be extended, Esser said, explaining Parson’s reopening plan. Missouri’s state-of-emergency is in place through at least June 15, she said.
"Again, we just have to be heightened,“ she said. ”It’s up to the counties and cities to make their decision on what they are going to do.”
The chamber is funded through membership dues and community activities like Heritage Days through booth and space fees, as well as the wine and beer gardens.
“The memberships have basically sustained [us],” Esser said. “We lost some but we always do. In terms of memberships and dollars, it depends on what happens throughout the rest of the year.”
The chamber may have to make adjustments since it may end up with less in operating funds. Everyone is in the same boat, Esser said.
The community calendar, newsletter
In the meantime, Esser still has to figure out someway to program a community calendar. She normally would publish a weekly calendar of events, but had to stop since all events were canceled the past couple of months.
“This month we are not even publishing a newsletter because there is just not much to get out there,” she said. “We’re hoping to pull things back together for the month of June and publish something, especially if we do have Heritage Days.”
There are good things going on during the pandemic, Esser said. She received a notification that Saints Peter and Paul School still plans to have its spaghetti dinner. This means there are a lot of things that people are doing to try and pitch in and try to help as much as they can, she said.
“We’re getting out as much information as we can about anything that’s kind of a freebie,” Esser said. “Each member of our board is going to call a group of people to just kind of check and see how things are going. Let them know that we’re here if there is anything we can do to try and help them.”