Businesses cope with coronavirus

Ron Burtz and Kate Najacht
The social distancing guidelines laid down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and reinforced by the governor’s office and the Custer City Council through its recent ordinance are being keenly felt by Custer businesses. 
For instance, restaurants have been forced to close their dining rooms and offer take-out service only. However, most businesses have made adaptations to be able to survive the shutdowns and are persevering through the crisis. 
Black Hills Burger and Bun Co. has always offered take-out and began offering curbside service even before the city mandated the closing of their dining room. It has now added online ordering as well, which is available through its website, Orders may also be placed by calling 673-3411. 
Full menu items are available for take-out during its operating hours of Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
Pizza Mill has remained open for carry-out service throughout the crisis and offers delivery from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week with no delivery fee within four miles of city limits. Parking lot pickup is also available on request for customers who don’t wish to come into the building or leave their cars. The store also offers take-and-bake pizzas on request. 
Pizza Mill manager Aleah Witt appreciates the support the restaurant has received from the community during this situation.
“It has been great to see everyone supporting each other,” she said.
Our Place owner Steve Brown said his business has “dropped off a lot” during the shutdown, adding, “It’s really hurting our business.” 
Nevertheless, the popular community gathering place for coffee and casual dining is open for carry-out and curbside service five days a week. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with both breakfast and lunch items served all day. It is temporarily closed on weekends. 
At The Miner’s Cup on Mt. Rushmore Road, coffee and food drive-up and walk-up business continues to be brisk. Since the business does not offer a dine-in option, owner Miranda Boggs said she has seen no decrease in traffic and, in fact, business appears to be increasing as tourists flow back into the area. 
The only changes Boggs has made are connected with sanitation, such as wearing gloves at all times, not opening the service window all the way and sanitizing surfaces between customers. The business hours remain the same: 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. 
Customers may place orders for coffee drinks, smoothies or food items by calling 673-3882 or by using the Toast Takeout smartphone app available at the App Store or on Google Play. Boggs says it appears more customers are using the app since the shutdown and several other restaurants in town have started using it as well. 
The Custer Beacon is promoting its new spring take-out menu which is available Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Customers may order either online at or by calling 673-3800. 
Lintz Bros. Pizza at Hermosa is operating Wednesday through Monday from 3 to 8 p.m. It offers curbside-only pick-up “to keep everyone healthy and safe.” 
Owner Brian Lintz said business dropped off significantly the first week of the curbside service, but it came back up after customers got used to the new normal. He said normally about 60 percent of his business is dine-in and he believes people are missing the social interaction of eating in the restaurant. 
“Employee and customer morale has suffered more than anything,” he said. 
Carson Drug has made changes in its operations “to limit patient and staff exposure to COVID-19.” 
It offers curbside pick-up, local delivery and mail service to its customers. 
Pharmacist Colby Johnson said the offer applies to more than just medications, as the store has even delivered T-shirts to customers who ordered over the phone. 
“We’re doing this in the best interest of all our customers,” said Johnson, “to help protect  people who are immunocompromised and the public health.”
He believes there are more people out there who could or should be using the service, so he is trying to get the word out. 
Kelly Miller, Custer branch manager for Highmark Credit Union, said it was interesting timing when businesses were asked to begin changing the way they offer services as Highmark had just launched a much more robust website with an online banking component that includes the ability to pull funds from other financial institutions to pay bills.
“It’s much more user-friendly,” he said, “and has a lots of bells and whistles for our members.”
The new website includes e-signatures for paperwork and the ability to do everything from opening an account to applying for a loan.
Lobbies at all Highmark locations are currently closed, but drive-throughs remain open at two of their five local branches and Miller said customers are also using the night depository and ATMs. He said Highmark has also extended its call center hours to 7 p.m. 
The lobby of the Custer member service facility of Black Hills Federal Credit Union is closed, but the drive-up is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. In addition, the credit union’s contact center hours have been extended to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. It can be reached by calling 605-718-1818. 
At Custer Senior Center, director Jill Kettle said, while the center is closed to the public, she is ready and waiting to help anyone during this time. Most recently, she facilitated a donation to Custer Meals on Wheels.
Kettle goes to the office every day to check emails and voicemails and also keeps in touch with the mayor to learn the latest developments. The senior center board also continues to meet regularly.
Fundraising continues through the senior center and it is selling masks for $10. Kettle is working with others on a donation of masks and other supplies for the hospital.
Phone calls to center members have become Kettle’s version of welfare checks and she says she wants everyone to know she is still available to help however she can.
Dr. Sharon Seneczko of Southern Hills Animal Clinic said she didn’t want to abandon the needs of the community during this difficult time, so the clinic remains open to care for animals. She said the response to the way they’ve been conducting business has been overwhelmingly positive.
One change is that employees now have to wash their hands after each animal they handle and before touching anything else. Seneczko said that results in about 50 hand-washings per day per worker. Employees are also wearing gowns and masks as well as gloves to protect both the animals and their hands. Doorknobs, animal carriers and the credit card machine are all consistently wiped down with alcohol throughout the day.
Steve Sallee, owner of Rushmore Automotive, said he has always been blessed with exceptional customers and they continue to work with him.
“I’ve always said if you treat people the way you want to be treated,” he said, “then when the chips are down, those people will come through for you.”
He has witnessed that first-hand because he has had a zero-contact service model since the crisis began and said it seems to be working just fine.
Customers contact Sallee beforehand to discuss their car needs, then drop off their cars in the lot, put the keys through the mail slot and Sallee then performs the repairs. 
“Payments are made pretty much on the honor system through the same mail slot,” he said, noting he has had only positive experiences with it. “If it weren’t for this, I’d be destitute. This has renewed my faith in mankind.”
One workplace that is not slowing down, and, in fact, has seen business increase exponentially is the Custer Post Office. 
Postmaster Kirk Rust said the office’s workload began to increase about the same time as the social distancing recommendations kicked in and volume has been steadily growing since the first of April. 
Rust said the surge has been in both incoming and outgoing mail, but notes it is hard to say what the reason is. He didn’t disagree, however, with the inference that people are mailing more items out because they are not traveling long distances and that local residents are doing more online ordering during the quarantine. 
While Rust said there has been no increase in letter volume, the number of packages has increased greatly. 
“We get a lot through Amazon,” said Rust, adding, “We get a lot through the postal service, too.”
While Rust is in his first year as postmaster and has not yet experienced a Christmas season at the Custer Post Office, he said long-time employees are telling him the last few weeks have been even busier than most Christmases.

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