As the coronavirus upends economic life around the world, small towns like Paris are particularly vulnerable, as many of the small locally-owned businesses depend on tourism. Paris benefits from guests who come to visit the Eiffel Tower and Love Lock Fence on the Paris Square and Mt. Magazine State Park. Still, Mayor Daniel Rogers believes that Paris will be fine economically when the pandemic is over.
"I don't believe we rely on tourism to the point it's crippling to the economy here at this point. We are still trying to improve tourism to the area. And of the tourism dollars, a lot of the lodge goers are retirees who won't be hit as hard by job loss."
Mayor Rogers said that the lakes, trails and fishing might be what people do this summer instead of leaving the state due to future uncertainties with the virus.
"Vacationing will be down because people plan far in advance a lot of times, but visiting lakes and going fishing and such takes little planning and our area fits that kind of tourism perfectly."
Rogers also feels businesses will see more losses during this pandemic due to not having regular events, such as ball games, graduations and other spring events that bring guests to town than from a tourism standpoint.
"Of course, our people aren't going out of town to those events in other communities either; it may be a wash to some degree. It will be interesting to see sales tax numbers from these months when that data is available."
Chamber Director Tonya Baumgartner said that many business owners have had to close or have had sales drastically slow down due to the virus.
"That isn't something you recover from in a month, it will take many months to recover. I do have every confidence that our community will come out stronger when this is over because everyone is working hard to support local businesses now more than ever."
Locals have tried to support one another and small businesses are trying to do their part as well. LOCO Fitness owners Britt and Laura Bauer let members use its equipment at home until the gym was able to open back up on May 4 and provided at-home workouts. And even though restaurants were able to open back up with restrictions this week, some have decided to wait until those restrictions are lifted.
Dari Delite in Paris said they feel that the number of restrictions placed on them as a business and to the customers will lead to inconveniences.
"The health of our customers and employees is of most concern, we have decided to keep the dining area closed and continue "only to use the drive-thru and carry-out at this time
Cove Creek Supply Company has also decided to continue carry-out only until normal operations can resume.
Rogers remains optimistic that business in Paris will go back to normal once the pandemic is over and that the stimulus checks have provided relief to residents and business owners.
"Some businesses I've talked to are doing very well now due to the stimulus checks. The federal government has put the same amount of money in the hands of rural Arkansas people, with some of the lowest cost of living in the country as people in California and New York. $1200 per person is a lot for Paris, Arkansas. We are mostly paycheck to paycheck. We have appliances that need to be replaced; we need new tires, new furniture and pouring that money into our economy. I think it has been great for communities like Paris across the country and our businesses will benefit from that."
Although no events or festivals can be planned until the state has more information about restrictions, Baumgartner believes that when festivals or events can take place, it will be good for the community for socialization and to help drive the economy back up.
"Our next event will be Fireworks over Paris, and while it's not an opportunity for residents to get out and shop, I think we can enjoy a fun family evening while still practicing social distancing and lift the spirits of everyone with a firework display."
The City of Paris also has a multi-million dollar water project to be started this summer that will bring construction workers to town, ultimately providing revenue for local businesses.
Rogers said he is amazed and thankful that Paris has not had a confirmed case of COVID-19 yet.
"I really feel like our community has been blessed through this crisis and we will come out of this in great shape.
As of noon on Monday, Logan County had three positive cases with two recoveries. Last week, it was reported that Logan County had its first death due to the virus, but the Arkansas Department of Health retracted their previous statement and labeled the death for Yell County instead of Logan.