Millions of Americans continue to work from home, finding new routines for their new lives. It’s creating a ripple effect on small businesses like dry cleaners and dog walkers that depend on people being in the office.
Before the coronavirus, Bethany Lane's dog walking business, Whistle & Wag, was busy. She and her staff did up to 30 walks a day in Manhattan. But Mac the goldendoodle is now her sole client. "Things were normal and the next day we saw a 75% decrease in business, and by the next week we were completely shut down,” Lane says. She says many clients no longer need a dog walker because they're doing their jobs at home.
Many businesses supporting office workers have already had to close their doors, and others are left wondering what's next without a clear idea of when people will stop working from home.
A Stanford University study from earlier this summer found just 26% of people were going to their workplace for their jobs.
That's hurting dry cleaners like John Rothrock’s business, Yale Cleaners, in Oklahoma. "People aren't going to work. When they don't go to work, they're not wearing clothes and not bringing it to us. There's no proms, there’s no graduations, no weddings, no funerals, no anniversaries, people aren't getting out on the town and going out and dressing up,” he says. Rothrock’s grandfather started Yale Cleaners 75 years ago. They had to close one of their locations and lay off employees.
The National Dry Cleaners Association says across the country, many cleaners are seeing a 50% to 80% drop in business. "It was literally overnight. One day we had all the business, the next day we had no business. So it was really a dramatic change," Rothrock says.
It's not clear when companies will get more employees back into their buildings, and that has Rothrock and others who depend on clients working at the office wondering what the future holds.