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Economic effects of coronavirus still apparent in Iredell County

Summertime and ice cream go hand in hand, but for Andrea Chimato, the owner of Andrea’s Ice Cream & Sweet Shop, it has been a little different this year. Chimato shut down her business earlier this year due to the coronavirus, but in the past few months, she’s tried to bring a little normalcy at her shop.

“I know ice cream isn’t essential, but I think it’s a little luxury for some people. For families and kids that have been inside, it’s a little bit of fun,” Chimato said.

Foot traffic in Statesville has been down she said, which hurts the revenue of businesses like hers, but thanks to pushing their online and pickup orders, Chimato adapted to a world where going out for a sweet treat isn’t as easy as it was a year ago.

She said her business adapted, and that’s helped them weather the ups and downs so far this year. Families walking around Statesville normally would make a bigger share of her sales, Chimato put more time and effort this year into attracting online orders. Cakes, doughnuts and other baked goods deliveries keep her and her family busy. She said their mobile food trailer isn’t out as often as it once was, but private parties and doing concessions at pop-up-drive-in theaters are part of how her business keeps going. She’s still scooping ice cream, but the sweet part of her business played a role in keeping things from melting down.

“I’ve been doing this for eight years, and we’ve been working on some of these things for some time, but I know a newer business might not be as prepared for something like this,” Chimato said.

Her story is familiar in some ways to others in Iredell County, but not every business can adapt as easily or was as operated to like Chimato’s was since it’s family-owned. Even for her, the lack of foot traffic in Statesville lessened the need for her to hire employees. Her business is one of many that is still operating, but not in the same way it was last year.

A survey conducted by National Restaurant Association of more than 6,500 restaurant operators nationwide April 10-16 says two out of three restaurant employees have lost their jobs and the industry will sustain $240 billion in losses by the end of 2020. The story is no different in Iredell County.

According to Jessica Stewart, director of community development at the Iredell County Economic Development Corp. said leisure, hospitality, and retail businesses were the first and hardest hit by the impact of coronavirus.

While Iredell County is still seeing money being spent, less is being spent in tourism and the businesses supported by it. That may not hurt Statesville itself as much, but the county as a whole felt the impact. The workforce of more than 89,000 now sees 12,000 unemployed in the county as the unemployment rate stood at 13.7% in May. In February, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5%, translating to just over 3,100 people in Iredell County without work.

Hotels are one of the areas hardest hit, according to ICEDC. Mooresville hotels along with hotels across the country saw drastic drops in occupancy and revenue. Occupancy for Mooresville hotels for May was 26.4%, down 62.6% from May 2019 and revenue was down 71.7% from May 2019, according to Leah Mitcham, executive director of the Mooresville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

North Carolina’s total state and local tax revenue loss stands at $289.2 million, part of the $16.8 billion lost nationwide. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the North Carolina hotel industry lost 36,252 jobs and 97,280 total jobs that support that industry.

You can adapt in some cases, but for industries that require people to travel to specific locations, there are limits to what they can do until lockdown, mask mandates, and the virus keeps people from pursuing recreation and leisure in the ways they did before, officials said.

Leisure and hospitality employees filed 3,355 initial unemployment claims between March and May according to a Charlotte Regional Business Alliance economic impact survey.

It’s not all bad news in those industries, however. According to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance economic impact report, entertainment, restaurant and hotel businesses went from seeing 70% of their businesses report staffing declines in early April. That’s dropped to 20% as of early June., Ben Gibson. “Economic Effects of Coronavirus Still Apparent in Iredell County.” Mooresville Tribune, 17 July 2020,