DeKalb business owners come up with new ways to keep operations going


Patrick Murphy

Star Worlds Arcade has had to improvise as businesses close across the state due to the coronavirus.

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — After Illinois governor JB Pritzker ordered non-essential businesses to close until April to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many DeKalb business owners described the experience as daunting. With unexpected closure, they’ve had to improvise in order to keep operations flowing and customers satisfied.

For businesses whose operations and work are directly tied to NIU, this time is difficult. Star Worlds Arcade, 1234 E. Lincoln Highway, was in the middle of setting up games in the Holmes Student Center at the bar and grill and the Huskie Den before the closure.

As a supplier for bowling alleys and restaurants, the arcade has lost more than in-store business.

It is currently an awkward state of construction at NIU for the arcade.

“I’m not sure what NIU’s situation is yet. Once they are ready to get that going and all people are in place, it should go fairly smoothly,” O’Malley said.

While customers understand the arcade had to close for safety, they’re a bit disappointed. In this time of lost revenue and recognition, loyal customers have approached O’Malley, asking if they can purchase gift certificates. This not only keeps money flowing for the arcade, but ensures customers have tokens for games when they return.

“I was really honored that people thought of us like that,” O’Malley said.

As a business owner for 35 years, he said this closure has opened his eyes to the appreciation his customers have for him.

In the meantime, O’Malley is using this time to make repairs and continue routine maintenance in the arcade.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Amanda McGuiness, owner of Mira’s Salon and Spa, 327 E. Hillcrest Dr, has maintained a social presence, but she’s refraining from promoting her salon and spa.

McGuiness predicts closure will be extended past April 7.

“It’s not that I don’t want new customers, I just don’t want to promote, and have to tell people no,” McGuiness said.

To adjust to the closure, she has opened her store only for appointments, and not walk-ins. It’s been hard for her clients to find professional hair products, however.

“If [customers] need a resupply of things, we deliver that to their door,” McGuiness said.

Technology has served as an helpful asset for business owners in this time. Philip Henrikson, owner of the Gaming Goose, 229 E. Lincoln Highway, turned to eBay and Facebook Marketplace to keep revenue flowing and products accessible to customers.

Although there have been ways to adapt to the loss of business, Henrikson’s employees have had their hours cut dramatically.

“Their schedule and income has been reduced,” Henrikson said. “But they’re trying their best to make up for it by staying busy with projects around the store. The closure has given them plenty of time to freshen the store up and tend to work that has piled up in the back.”

A Small Business Administration loan has been discussed amongst smaller businesses to aid with loss of revenue. The loan will provide financing for needs regarding real estate, buildings and machinery for businesses who may not be able to afford it at the moment.

“It’s not free money. And if you’re going to get a loan, it’s just going to keep furthering your debt. So far we’re doing okay,” O’Malley said. “It’s not a no for the arcade, but [him and his team] will try to avoid it.”

For Mira’s, if business closure extends past April 7 McGuiness will consider looking into an SBA loan, but not at this moment.

The Gaming Goose, however, is fortunate enough to have started an emergency fund. If this continues longer, some assistance would be nice as Henrikson still has to pay rent and keep projects flowing.

If Pritzker’s order extends, some DeKalb store owners could find it difficult to keep business flowing. As far as social media stretches to keep customers engaged, the money to keep businesses open may stretch thinner.