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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - Meredith Wright (left) and Brian Kelton of Sherwood decorate cookies at Dempsey Bakery in Little Rock on December 21, 2019. The bakery was still open Thursday and keeping its regular hours. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Jeff Gammons)

With many national chain stores shutting down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses in Arkansas are finding creative ways to keep operating.

Tipton & Hurst Florist of Little Rock has operated since 1886 through pandemics, wars and depressions. In a note to customers on the company's Facebook page and website blog, President Howard Hurst outlined the steps the company is taking to ensure the safety of customers and employees.

"Our goal at Tipton & Hurst is to share joy and comfort through flowers, and that now feels more necessary than ever," Hurst said in Tuesday's Facebook post. "We will continue to deliver these sentiments as safely as possible."

Though the company closed its retail showrooms Tuesday, it's taking phone and online orders on weekdays at its shops in the Heights, Conway and Pine Bluff. The stores offer no-contact pickup and free no-contact delivery from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the Heights store will take orders from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

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Because of health regulations, however, no deliveries can go to hospitals or nursing homes. Customers can place orders through the florist's website anytime, and Hurst said shopping soon will be offered through FaceTime and Skype for virtual views of showrooms. Besides floral arrangements and plants, the company sells gift baskets filled with fruit, candy, gourmet foods and other specialty items. All of these may be ordered online.

The Toggery children's boutique, another Central Arkansas company, also is offering a home delivery service. Besides clothing and accessories, moms and dads can get books, toys and crafts to entertain the little ones home from school.

Stores are in the Heights and west Little Rock, but customers can call or direct message the stores for curbside pickup at both locations, and free porch delivery is available in Little Rock, according to the Toggery's Facebook page. Shipping is also available.

Jon Holcomb, who co-owns the Toggery with wife Caroline, said Wednesday that their stores remain open for now, but they haven't seen a lot of foot traffic. But they've had a number of people calling to place orders. Games, arts and crafts, books and Legos have been big sellers, he said.

"I think parents are looking for ways to supplement homeschooling home-schooling and keep the kids busy," Holcomb said.

As for whether the Toggery stores will stay open, "that's a day-to-day decision" as things develop, he said.

Dempsey Bakery, a gluten-free bakery and cafe in Little Rock, was still open Thursday and keeping its regular hours, owner Paula Dempsey said in a Facebook post. However, eatery has suspended lunchtime dine-in, like many other restaurants, but is taking orders to go.

Customers also can pick up frozen meals and breads, and workers will take the items out to their cars. Dempsey also encourages customers to try recipes posted on the bakery's website.

"We are taking it a week at a time," Dempsey said on Facebook, "so come and stock up.... Help keep us going!"

In Northwest Arkansas, Trailside Yoga & Beyond in Fayetteville has closed its studio, but started livestreaming classes Wednesday morning. The class schedule and instructors remain the same, according to the yoga studio's website and social media.

Members need to download the free Zoom app to whatever device they want to watch classes on. New members or people wanting to buy class passes may do so at trailsideyoga.com, where they can also find the class schedule.

Owner Stephani Jungmeyer, a former attorney, opened Trailside Yoga near downtown Fayetteville in 2014.

Fast Lane Entertainment in Lowell was still open Thursday, an employee who answered the phone said. The business owned by Chris Harris offers bowling, laser tag, an arcade and restaurant.

A spokeswoman for the venue didn't return a phone call, but a letter to customers posted on social media outlined a few changes Fast Lane is making to help minimize health risks to patrons and workers.

"First and foremost, we have dramatically increased the depth and frequency of our cleaning procedures," the company said. "You will see our staff out disinfecting 'high-touch' areas such as arcade games, bowling equipment, laser tag vests, amusement rides, and the play structure, to name a few."

Fast Lane also said that it's relaxing its fee policies regarding party and event cancellations and postponements. "Postponed birthday parties and other events will have the original pricing honored if rebooked within 12 months," it said. Customers are urged to follow the business on Facebook for the most up-to-date information.

Springdale grocery chain Harps Food Stores, said in a Facebook post Tuesday that it's offering free home delivery in some locations "for anyone who may be more susceptible to the COVID-19 [virus] now through March 31." The elderly and people with underlying health conditions are among the most at risk of contracting the virus, according to health officials.

Eligible shoppers can use the code Harpsdelivery20 at online checkout to waive the fee. However, orders must total at least $35 to qualify, and taxes and tips may apply.

Harps operates 92 stores in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The employee-owned chain is currently in a deal to buy another 20 stores in Arkansas and Missouri from Town & Country Grocers of Missouri.

Kim Eskew, Harps' president and chief executive officer, said in a note to customers on the company's e-commerce site that if people at risk choose to shop in stores, they're encouraged to do so early, when customer traffic is slowest.

Business on 03/20/2020

Print Headline: Companies in state get inventive to keep going

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