Suzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nThe world has changed a lot in the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work and school has been handled online, face masks have been the most used accessory, and travel outside borders has been restricted.\r\n\r\nWhile many of those adjustments became the new normal, they have become less necessary due to individuals getting vaccinated against the threat of COVID-19. Work and school are in-person once again, face masks are no longer a requirement and travel out-of-state and out of the country has resumed.\r\n\r\nWhile most things are getting back to normal, there are still some struggles. With fewer people returning to work, there are more and more job vacancies. Without the workforce, production has gone down, and many items that are produced can\u2019t be delivered, leaving some businesses with empty shelves.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s been a trickle effect for the most part, just for the fact that there are a lot of things that have not been stocked because of where the main supply is, and then there is the shortage of employees,\u201d Sheila Sharp, of Back Mountain Service, said. \r\n\r\nLocal businesses have had issues with orders and getting what they need. For some, it\u2019s one item, while others are seeing a change from week to week.\r\n\r\nSharp said tires were their big issue.\r\n\r\nAt Pocahontas IGA, manager Rob Hilleary said one week it\u2019s a shortage of pudding, the next week, it could be pie.\r\n\r\n\u201cI guess our biggest thing was canning supplies,\u201d said Roger Pritt, owner of Buckeye Home, Farm, Lawn and Garden.\r\n\r\n\u201cBasically, dog food is an issue,\u201d Southern States manager Robert Lee said.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s been a struggle with stock in general for these local businesses, and it\u2019s been harder in the past six months to know if an order will be filled in full or not.\r\n\r\n\u201cI get a list of available and not available items every week and sometimes it\u2019s a big list,\u201d Hilleary said. \u201cThere are quite a few items that are on restriction to where they limit you to one thing. We did get the warning about Gatorade and CapriSun. There was an aluminum shortage, so Capri-Sun and things like that we couldn\u2019t get. Gatorade \u2013 there was something with them.\u201d\r\n\r\nPritt said he has the same issue, where he puts in an order for a certain number of items, and he receives what is available.\r\n\r\n\u201cOn average, we are missing a hundred items a week on a regular hardware order,\u201d he said. \u201cLast week it was down to sixty, so it looks like things are getting better. Before, it was \u2018if it\u2019s there and it\u2019s for sale, it\u2019s first come, first served.\u2019 Not now. There are things that show ten available, we\u2019ll order five and only get one.\u201d\r\n\r\nLee said his orders are filled in the same manner, but he continues to order what he needs and hopes he gets enough to satisfy his customers.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnimal health \u2013 getting vaccinations \u2013\u00a0it was awful,\u201d he said. \u201cIt was a company back order. They didn\u2019t have it to ship to the warehouses to send them on. Manufacturer backorder is what they called it. I don\u2019t see it easing up. We send our order to them, and we don\u2019t really know if we\u2019re going to get it or not until the truck shows up. That\u2019s not good.\r\n\r\n\u201cOn the animal health, they\u2019re restricted,\u201d he added. \u201cIf you order fifty and you only get ten, you turn around and put in another order for fifty because you know you\u2019re not going to get it.\u201d\r\n\r\nLee said he tried for hours to get the right vaccinations for a customer by calling seven different suppliers.\r\n\r\n\u201cI called every store I could think of to get a patron some vaccines,\u201d he said. \u201cHe had to change his whole vaccination program just so he could get covered. I\u2019m talking hours.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor Back Mountain Service, it\u2019s hard to stock parts for every brand of vehicle, especially when those parts aren\u2019t after-market.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s not so much your normal maintenance like oil filers and oil, things like that,\u201d Sharp said. \u201cIt\u2019s parts that are a little bit bigger. For example, Dodge. We had a 3500 series Dodge that needed a pretty big part. You call the Dodge dealer because there\u2019s no after-market part, and they\u2019re like, \u2018three months.\u2019 Volkswagen, same way. A lot of stuff is not made here. It comes from overseas, and you are just waiting.\u201d\r\n\r\nNot all businesses have seen a change in getting stock. At Glades Building Supply, owner Randy Sharp said there have always been issues with backorders, but he hasn\u2019t seen an extreme change in that since the pandemic began.\r\n\r\n\u201cReally, at this time, no, we haven\u2019t had hardly any issues,\u201d he said. \u201cNo more issues than what we\u2019ve ever had if that makes sense. We have backorders every week. We\u2019ve had backorders since the beginning of time. We\u2019ve had very few limitations. We\u2019ve always had other options.\u201d\r\n\r\nSharp explained that if he is unable to get a certain item, for example, a MasterLock padlock, he has several other brand padlocks that work just as well.\r\n\r\nThe strain of the pandemic has been felt by so many small businesses that a lot of them did not survive. At Pocahontas IGA, there are several items no longer available because the companies that produced the products went out of business.\r\n\r\n\u201cUnfortunately with this, we\u2019ve lost some suppliers because the businesses went out,\u201d Hilleary said. \u201cWe lost a lot of products that won\u2019t come back. Smaller companies that have gone away \u2013 a company that produced the little four pack pizzas, they\u2019re gone. We sold those pizzas every day.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnother issue arising during this time is the cost of stock, which in turn raises the prices for consumers.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe biggest impact that I\u2019ve really seen is the prices,\u201d Pritt said. \u201cThree inch conduit last year, we were selling for $19.99. Our cost is $75 now. One ten-foot stick of pipe. Anything metal or plastic, which is almost everything, has really gone up.\u201d\r\n\r\nSouthern States is seeing the same thing.\r\n\r\n\u201cLet\u2019s say I sell a gate for $100 and I order a replacement, now it\u2019s costing me $110,\u201d Lee said. \u201cThen I sell that gate for $110, now it\u2019s costing me $120. Let\u2019s say I make ten dollars on that gate. I\u2019ve got to take that ten dollars and spend it on merchandise. It used to be, everything was pretty stable. You sell this gate, you buy more and you don\u2019t have to use what you\u2019ve made to buy that product.\r\n\r\n\u201cNot anymore,\u201d he continued. \u201cYou\u2019re using your capital to buy inventory. You\u2019re using your margins that you got on this particular product to buy another one.\u201d\r\n\r\nLee is most concerned about his propane customers who will be filling their tanks for this coming winter.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt bothers me,\u201d he said. \u201cIt really does because we\u2019ve got a lot of customers \u2013\u00a0our gas customers especially \u2013 that are in their eighties. They\u2019re on a fixed income and now gas is up. Propane, is sixty cents higher than it was last year at the highest, and we haven\u2019t even started.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt goes up a couple pennies every day,\u201d he continued. \u201cI kind of drag my feet. When I get to that nickel, I\u2019ve got to move it up. It\u2019s an ugly scene. Especially when you take a homeowner who calls and they\u2019ve got a five hundred gallon tank and they need two hundred fifty gallons and you\u2019re paying sixty cents more a gallon. It adds up in a hurry.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe past several months have changed the way local businesses prepare for upcoming seasons. Now with winter on the horizon and Christmas in sight, businesses have or are about to make purchases to be ready for the demand.\r\n\r\nBuckeye Home, Farm, Lawn and Garden is prepared for winter with one item \u2013\u00a0sleds.\r\n\r\n\u201cI ordered them in July,\u201d Pritt said. \u201cA lot of people laughed at me, but now there are none available, and we\u2019ve got a couple hundred of them. Now when we see something \u2013\u00a0whether we need it or not \u2013 we order it because we figure, at some point, they\u2019re not going to have it in the warehouse.\u201d\r\n\r\nRumor is, there is a turkey shortage and Thanksgiving may be different for a lot of families, but luckily Pocahontas IGA is set.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re full on turkeys,\u201d Hilleary said. \u201cWe\u2019re working on Christmas now to make sure we have enough hams for Christmas.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe old saying goes that there\u2019s a light at the end of the tunnel, but unfortunately, some local businesses don\u2019t know just how long this stock issue tunnel is.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve been doing this for thirty some years,\u201d Lee said. \u201cIt\u2019s been the last eight months \u2013\u00a0the first go around, it was pretty calm and steady \u2013\u00a0and now, for the last eight months, it\u2019s been hell on wheels. It would be different if it was just one category, but it\u2019s all the categories in the whole store. I\u2019m painting you an ugly picture, but it\u2019s real.\u201d\r\n\r\nNow, more than ever, it is important that people shop locally and support the businesses that have worked hard to meet the needs of the community in good times and bad.