Encouraging Efforts

How Columbia Businesses are Adapting During the COVID-19 Crisis

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our local businesses are having to adapt and adjust. But, not only are our local businesses adapting, they’re responding to needs in the community and encouraging customers that brighter days are ahead. We spoke with some of these leaders about how they’re adjusting, adapting and helping our community — as well as what they’re looking forward to during this time.


Denise Nelson, President of Accounting Plus, Inc.

Q: How are you helping Columbians get through this tough time?
A: We’re providing no-charge assistance to our business clients with questions on CARES Act options, including forgivable business loans, pandemic unemployment assistance and other programs. We‘re constantly updating our web site and social media content to provide information on both business and individual programs related to COVID-19 relief.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: There are still a lot of unanswered questions both we and our customers have about some of these brand-new relief programs, so be patient as the federal and state government entities work through the logistics of rolling this money out.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: The entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in Columbia, as existing business owners make tough decisions to keep their businesses viable and new business owners forge ahead with plans to open in spite of recent challenges.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: The end of the stay-at-home order and the re-opening of our economy!

Q: How can people continue to support your business/organization/work during this time?
A: Even though our lobby is closed to foot traffic, we’re open and ready to help with any and all accounting, payroll and income tax needs. We know how important these services are to so many and are committed to providing them even in the face of uncertainty about the future.


Rob Sachse, Vice President/Owner, Aire Serv of Columbia

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We’re practicing good social distancing by having our customers verbally agree for any work completed, thus removing physical signatures. And by making sure our technicians and customers are healthy before we engage in any type of work. This is an unprecedented time for us all and we want to be there when people need their air conditioners or furnaces repaired. We’re open 24/7.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: How important the indoor air quality in their homes is and how it can be improved. Our mission is ‘To keep the air in which we live and breathe comfortable and clean so that people live healthier, happier lives.’ Better filtration, UV lights, ionizers, humidification and dehumidification products are proven solutions that can create a better living environment.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: That the city of Columbia and its community pull together in a crisis. It’s good to see a community understand the importance of how doing things a little differently now can have a huge impact on how well and how soon we can get through this.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie at the stadiums. Being back at the parks and attending social events with our family and friends, and getting back to normal, whatever that new normal is.


Liz Kane, Director of Business Development, CenterPointe Hospital

Q: How are you helping Columbians get through this tough time?
A: We’re continuing to provide acute stabilization treatment for adolescents, adults and senior adults in a mental health crisis. We have implemented the recommendations provided by the CDC to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients in our admissions process as well as during a patient’s stay with us.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: We are all in this together. When the uncertainty of this situation becomes overwhelming, reach out. We are available 24/7/365 for individuals in need of mental health treatment.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: We are a strong community. While we maneuver this challenging time, members of this community have stepped up to help each other in meaningful ways.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Check in on your employees. Mental health does not discriminate and in a time of such uncertainty, it can manifest in forms of anxiety, depression and isolation.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: To see our community come out of this stronger than ever.


Deb Huffman, Owner, Concord Financial Services

Q: How are you helping Columbians get through this tough time?
A: We’re reaching out to our clients to review their policies to make sure everything is up to date. More people are at home, so they now have a little time to discuss their insurance needs.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: Now might be an excellent time to assess your insurance needs for auto, home and life.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: I feel Columbia and mid-Mo are doing a great job of social distancing and trying to help everyone be safe and healthy.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: When we can all go back to our normal activities although I do think there will be a ‘new normal’ that will exist.

Q: How can people continue to support your business/organization/work during this time?
A: If people would like to review their insurance, give us a call at 573-445-7157 or send me an email at deb@concordfinancialalliance.com and we can run some quotes to see if you have the coverage you need or if we can save you some money.


John Mullette, General Manager, Culligan Water

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: Curb side delivery, screening employees and customers prior to meeting. Maintaining higher levels of sanitation as well as social distancing.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: Being available to accommodate special requests. Keeping our company healthy and working. Maintaining pricing levels at pre-corona norms. Working on and supporting all brands of water treatment equipment.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: That we are all in this together and we should find reasons to help one another as well as following the guidelines to flatten the curve.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Do everything in your power to keep your people employed, brief them as a group on good news as well as what they need to know. Make sure they know you care about them and that you are part of the same organism.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: This thing getting under control so we can go back to business as usual.


Becky Henson, Owner, Dog Daze Playcare

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: Closed to people in the building, contactless drop off with glass doors between people, wiping all common areas, more disinfecting of human areas.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: Trying to support our first responders, medical workers, essential workers — caring for their 4-legged family members. Still doing overnight care when long hours prevent people from taking care of their dogs, when they need other medical care (surgery or having a baby!)

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: There is great support in the community!

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Getting back to work, bringing more staff back on! REALLY would love to feel ‘normal’ again! Whatever that is, and I’m sure it will be different.

Q: How can people continue to support your business/organization/work during this time?
A: Stay safe and healthy so you all can take a vacation soon (and leave your dog with us!). Many of our clients have pre-purchased services, helping us with the cash crunch. We’d be glad to have people purchase our ‘Lend a Paw Package’ to donate to critical workers or to donate to the staff who are working reduced hours.


Lauren Helmreich, Operations Manager, Downtown Appliance Home Center

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We currently have our front doors locked to the public, but we’re still available through phone, email, chat on the website and video calls. We’re also available for curbside pick-up. We’re still running service calls, however at this time, we’re only doing emergency calls. We’re also doing deliveries of appliances, preferably only drop-offs in the garage. It’s a little harder because we’re down to one service technician and only one delivery crew.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: Please remember that we’re all in the same boat. Our guys are worried about their own safety, as well as the safety of our customers. It’s difficult for us to tell our customers that we cannot do something they would like us to do. Please understand this is just something we have to do right now to maintain everyone’s safety.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: The community really comes together in tough times. It’s neat to see the community really support local business and each other.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Just hang in there. We’re all in this together. We’re all dealing with the exact same thing. This shall pass eventually. Just be encouraging and understanding with each other.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: The day that business can go back to normal!


Jeff Hemme, Owner, Hemme Construction, Home Builder

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We have many employees working from home. We’re doing many virtual meetings with clients to keep communication going on current and future home building projects. I still miss the face-to-face meetings with people.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: We’re keeping all of our dozens of essential employees and subcontractors working with strict social distancing guidelines. We have provided extra health precautions to help keep them and their families healthy.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: Even though many businesses are closed, we are blessed to be essential and open and thriving. Our office doors may be locked but our company is able to keep in touch with clients through technology. Please take this situation seriously and follow the health department guidelines. We will get through this together.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: I’ve learned that people take care of people. It’s a wonderful thing to see our community and neighbors work together to combat the COVID-19 challenges we all face.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: I’m looking forward to returning to “normal.” I realize that’s different for each of us. I really miss church and my small group gatherings with friends and family.


Tony Lotven, Business Consultant, Hodges Roofing & Siding LLC

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: Observing social and physical distancing and adding to our technology toolbox to allow us to continue to work with customers without meeting face-to-face. We can fully measure the exterior details of a house and send customers an accurate 3D rendering. This allows them to play with product options and colors without us having to be inside their home showing samples.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: We have financial options. We have fun with our superhero ‘The Grey Panther’ and the villains he fights like ‘Sergeant Storm.’ But the truth is, the real superheroes right now are those on the front lines like doctors, nurses and first responders. The best thing we can do is answer requests as quickly as possible, listen to people’s needs and concerns, and help them feel in control and appreciated.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: The cooperative spirit has shined in Columbia. The city leaders stepped up and took action early and that really helped set the tone for all of us deal with this emergency.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Family gatherings, music in the park at Rose Music Hall, being able to travel, golf, shaking hands, hugging, sports and all the wonderful diverse indoor and outdoor activities that are Columbia’s character.

Q: How can people continue to support your business/organization/work during this time?
A: We hope everyone understands this is a time of change and stress and gives us a little grace as we work hard to respond quickly to every request and situation. We can plan your project with you no matter if it’s an emergency or if you’d like the work done after this health crisis. And you can support us by supporting your friends, family and local businesses to rebuild our neighborhoods and community and express a little more grace, tolerance and love for each other.


Denise Payne, Broker Salesperson, Denise Payne Real Estate Team at Weichert, Realtors – First Tier

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: Working with each seller or buyer to make sure they’re comfortable with either having buyers come into their house or going into a house to look. Sellers are turning on lights and opening closet doors for showings to lower the number of touches a buyer might need to do. Buyers are sanitizing before entering homes, as well as using wipes to open any doors that were not left open. We’re ensuring that all buyers have spoken with a lender and have an approval letter written before showing them houses.

Q: How are you helping Columbians get through this tough time?
A: We’ve donated to Go Fund Me to provide meals from local restaurants to health care workers and are regularly ordering meals from restaurants to help support them in this time.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: That we all need a big bucket of grace for each other.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: We need to help each other to the best of our ability and remember that our actions can affect others.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Listening to live music at venues this summer with friends.


Jamie Scheppers, Vice President, Administration, N.H. Scheppers Distributing Company

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We’re still getting beer to accounts that want it, while taking steps to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. Office staff are working from home if possible, our building is locked down to outsiders and we’ve staggered some shifts to help with social distancing. We’re letting employees work shorter shifts for full pay and sanitizing our building and equipment frequently. Our staff is wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer we purchased from Dogmaster Distillery. We’ve reallocated our internal resources to help more in the grocery, liquor and convenience stores where people are going to stock their pantries. This has allowed us to keep everyone employed and get our products where they’re needed most.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: We’re using our social media to encourage people to continue to patronize local bars and restaurants for take-out food, and we are doing the same! We’re also working on a project to help raise money for local bar and restaurant workers who have either been laid off or are earning fewer tips.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: I’ve been impressed with the resiliency and adaptability people have shown. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve seen most people exhibit extraordinary patience with each other as we all work to figure things out during this time. It’s been refreshing to see how much people truly care about each other!

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Be flexible and creative, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is a perfect time to try something new since people are already so far out of their usual routines and habits.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: A time when we can all gather and clink glasses with a cold beer!


Michelle L West, Vice President, Mid America Mortgage Services, Inc.

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: While we are limiting the actual foot traffic in the building, we’re still meeting with clients by appointment and via phone or email. We’re trying to be as flexible as possible to get our clients’ home loan needs met.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: We are ALL in this together.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: That we will come together as a community to make it through this very difficult time.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: To remember it takes all to make Columbia and our surrounding communities survive.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Having the doors open to the walk-in traffic. I miss the face-to-face interaction.


April Yates, Practice Manager, Missouri Fertility

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We’re utilizing telehealth to keep in contact with our patients. Although we’re not able to start new treatment cycles, there are several things we can do to help our patients use this time to maximize their fertility success. Our wellness program is working closely to help individuals optimize their fertility potential by increasing their health and wellness in preparation for treatment.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: Our staff continue to be available to our patients at all times to answer questions or just provide support. We pride ourselves on being readily available as we know most questions don’t come to mind during regular business hours.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: Infertility is not an elective procedure. It’s a very real disease affecting numerous couples. COVID-19 is a pandemic having devastating results on family building. When all you want is to have a child, being told to wait is heartbreaking.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: The community is more than willing to help each other in this time of need. We have been able to coordinate efforts with varying companies, such as Flows Pharmacy, to help our patients while maintaining the safety guidelines set forth by the many overseeing agencies.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: In this unprecedented time, it’s necessary to think outside the box. We must think about those we serve and less about our bottom line. People everywhere are struggling and in need of assistance. Find a way to help others and the rest will take care of itself.


Michelle Gleba, Regional Director of Better Business Bureau Serving Mid-Missouri

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We’re using social media to spotlight the efforts of local BBB accredited businesses who have gone above and beyond during this pandemic to help the Columbia and mid-Missouri community. We’re producing videos on the latest COVID-19 scams and other scams currently targeting consumers and we also produced a new TV spot airing locally to encourage consumers to support local businesses during this trying time.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: I’m working closely with media in mid-Missouri to continue to get the word out about the various resources BBB continues to offer. Consumers can still file complaints against a business; research business profiles; obtain consumer tips; and they watch our videos on the latest coronavirus scams or report scams by visiting our Scam Tracker at bbb.org.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: I would like for consumers and businesses to understand how important it is now more than ever to treat each other ethically. When this crisis is over, the one thing people will remember the most is how they were treated.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: Columbia has always been a giving community and this crisis has really shined a light on the numerous people, organizations and businesses who have stepped up to the plate to help others and work as a team. I am so proud to be a part of this city and community.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Speaking to large groups in person again about BBB services because there’s nothing more rewarding than making connections face-to-face with citizens and businesses in mid-Missouri.


Steve Hotsenpiller, President, Steve’s Pest Control, Inc.

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We’re focusing treatment on the exterior as much as possible, using PPE on all services (gloves, masks, respirators, hand sanitizers), exercising social distancing and re-structuring service protocol and pricing until we get through the crisis.

Q: How are you helping Columbians to get through this tough time?
A: By offering streamlined services at a reduced price, working with clients on service renewals to delay payment, and temporarily suspending services until further notice.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: We have a lot of loyal customers! Everyone is doing their part to help control this. Most of our clients have a positive attitude and outlook despite the shutdown. Most everyone is optimistic that we’ll get through this and be back to ‘normal’ soon.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Do everything you can to keep yourself, staff, and customers safe. Have a team/partnership attitude with your customers. Stay positive.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Having an effective treatment and readily available testing for this virus. Ending the shutdown and getting back to normal again.


Dr. Bridget Gruender, Liberty Family Medicine

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: As of March 12, we moved to complete telemedicine services and have not been offering in-clinic visits unless absolutely necessary. Our unique practice has telemedicine as an option on a regular basis, so we’ve ramped up that part of the practice. We also have an in-house dispensary, so we’re able to make sure patients have the medications that they need for chronic conditions. To ensure safety, we’ve installed a lockbox system outside the front door for prescription pickup.

Q: How are you helping Columbians get through this tough time?
A: There has been a large increase in anxiety and depression; at Liberty, we’re able to care for this on a regular basis but are doing even more of that currently given the situation. We’re still getting calls daily from individuals who don’t have any health coverage and, as always, we’re able to offer full primary care here at the clinic for a low monthly fee. We also have options for catastrophic coverage through our partnership with Liberty Insurance Solutions. I’ve also started doing more Facebook live videos to discuss topics pertinent for the current time including COVID-19 updates as well as tips on how to care for yourself during this difficult time. I love being able to offer medical advice that might be helpful to others, especially in this time of need.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: I am not surprised at how well our resilient community has quickly reacted to the current situation in order to continue to support the local businesses and each other.

Q: Do you have any advice for other local business owners or customers?
A: Stay positive! As a physician, I know that this bleak time will eventually end, and we will all have to continue on as small business owners and community members. Continue to take care of yourself both physically and mentally and continue to support our amazing community any way possible. As a small business owner, make sure you are looking into government options for funding help if needed.


Dr. Michael Ryan, Owner, Missouri Vein Care

Q: What are you doing to tailor your business to fit the unique needs of Columbians during this time?
A: We see people with leg symptoms and pain and decreased activity, and we continue to see them during this time. We now offer video screenings and video consults so that people can get the reassurance and answers they want and address their health concerns without having to come to the office.

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood right now?
A: With the dramatic changes due to COVID-19, life for many is upside down. What some people are missing is the opportunity to educate yourself and learn about any of a number of topics online, so people can keep moving forward to improve their lives.

Q: What have you learned about our city and community during this time?
A: This challenge has brought out the best in the people. The volunteer work to help neighbors, to the cooperation with restricting activities for the good of the community, are very inspiring.

Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: Like all of us I look forward to getting back to normal, but I am certain this will be a completely new normal, similar to how things changed after 9/11. Since I have the choice of attitude, I will choose the new normal to be a better one.

Q: How can people continue to support your business/organization/work during this time?
A: People can learn about a variety of leg symptoms due to vein circulation problems by visiting our website, reading our extensive blogs or contacting our staff to get their personal questions answered.


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