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Jacksonville’s Downtown Businesses Weather Pandemic

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Raymon Troncoso
/
WJCT News
Wolf and Cub in Downtown Jacksonville

Downtown Jacksonville businesses have been coping through 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic amid lockdowns, decreased foot traffic and record hospitalizations and death.

Bobby Reynolds, owner of Mag’s Cafe— formerly Magnificant— on the corner of Laura and Monroe Street, said Tuesday business had been good this year after weathering a brutal 2020.

The cafe shifted hours, changed menu items and even started catering after the start of the pandemic in order to make ends meet. According to Reynolds, it’s part of growing and expanding the business.

“You got to think about it ‘What can I do to get this additional two or three people in today?’ We added beer and wine here, we have a full line of expressos, cappuccinos, so we’ve been really creative about trying to get people to stay fresh within the market,” he said.

Reynolds runs the family business with his son and they have three employees. 

While business had been up significantly in the last few months, Reynolds said the new surge led by the hyper-contagious Delta variant along with the city opening its Regeneron treatment clinic across the street at the library has caused nearly a 40% drop in customers the past week.

Despite that, Reynolds is optimistic. His family and staff are all vaccinated, mask while inside and deep clean the store regularly. He’s built up capital from the surge in business earlier this year and has more ideas on how to expand the business. They plan to outlast the pandemic.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Reynolds said. “We want to open up more hours and stuff, but we have to have support from the Downtown and employees and businesses, and right now it’s just not here yet.”

It’s a similar message at other locations Downtown. Wolf and Cub, a concept shop on Laura Street for independent products, mostly vintage clothes and homegoods, is also making ends meet in hard times.

Emily Moody-Rosete co-owns the store with her husband. She says they both work full-time jobs outside of managing the shop.

“It's not where we thought Downtown would be five years ago, we really were kind of putting all of our eggs in that basket,” she said, “But we've made the commitment to be down there. Because we really care about building up the community and creating culture and placemaking and we know Downtown can do it.”

Despite the delta variant and record-high deaths and hospitalizations in Florida, Emily said  business actually picked up this month with the start of the school year, and they’ve also started offering some products online.

“I’m not gonna let COVID take that away from us, our store is here to stay. I’m gonna work, anything I need to do, I’m gonna work for it.”

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Credit Raymon Troncoso / WJCT News
Chamblin's Uptown says it's seeing higher sales at its bookstore than pre-pandemic.

Chamblin’s Uptown, a combined cafe and bookstore on Laura Street, has also seen a brightside in recent months. While the cafe took a hit early in the pandemic, and has seen steady numbers this year, the bookstore is actually averaging more sales than in early 2020 and 2019, pre-pandemic.

Some businesses have also started up Downtown in the midst of the pandemic, Bread and Board, a Jacksonville sandwich shop and fine dining kitchen, recently moved from its Riverside location to open up a new brick and mortar Downtown.

 
Raymon Troncoso can be reached at rtroncoso@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RayTroncoso.