From utility upgrades to last year’s overhaul of Union Square, there’s been plenty of disruption in downtown Hickory over the last few years.

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting another challenge in downtown.

Tracy Thornton, owner of the dress shop Tracy’s On The Square, is seeing the effect of the coronavirus pandemic as weddings and proms are pushed back.

She said she’s always made a point of keeping the store stocked with hand sanitizer and she’s doing her best to stay positive. But she couldn’t help but choke up when talking about the way the pandemic has provoked anxieties in her customers. “I deal with teenagers and this is a lot of their senior years,” Thornton said. “It’s so minor to everyone else, but I see them come in and they’re going, ‘This is my senior year. What if we don’t have prom? What if we don’t get to walk for graduation? What are we going to do?’”

In this difficult time, Thornton is coming together with other business owners in town to support one another.

Artisan Soapery owner Katye Fredieu is producing her own hand sanitizer. She said she’s making 12 gallons or more a day. To acquire the materials she needs for the hand sanitizer, Fredieu is bartering with Olde Hickory Brewery.

The brewery provides isopropyl alcohol for use in the hand sanitizer. In return, Fredieu gives them the hand sanitizer for their businesses. The sanitizer is selling out as quickly as they make it, Fredieu said. She said the city of Hickory alone has purchased 500 bottles.

She’s also given the hand sanitizer to other downtown businesses as well. She said the boutique Aqua B is offering complimentary bottles and may soon start selling it.

Fredieu said downtown businesses are also promoting other downtown businesses on social media and ordering carryout from downtown restaurants. “We all need to support each other if we’re going to get through it and thrive,” Fredieu said.

The Hickory Downtown Development Association announced earlier in the week it was partnering with the Chamber of Catawba County and the Newton Downtown Development Association on an initiative called Takeout Blitz.

The campaign encourages people to post photos with their takeout orders. Those who post the photos with the hashtag #takeoutblitz and tag the chamber @catawbachamber will have a chance to win gift cards.

The chamber has a list of the more than 40 local businesses participating at catawbachamber.org/takeoutblitzcatawba. Businesses are also emphasizing gift cards and services like curbside pickup and delivery.

Fredieu said she is offering free nationwide shipping. Thornton said she has shipped some dresses.

Lauren Stewart, assistant manager of Aqua B, said the store is offering curbside delivery and free shipping for orders more than $35.

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