ANDOVER — Andover is an anomaly in the post-pandemic world.
“No businesses closed because of the pandemic,” said Ann Ormond, the town’s director of business, arts and culture. “In fact, three businesses have opened and two more are on the way.”
Across the state of Massachusetts, there are 49% fewer small businesses open in June of this year versus January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the economy, according to the Opportunity Insights Recovery Tracker, which is overseen by researchers at Harvard University. However, Andover has maintained and grown the small business community, Ormond said.
“We had already seen a lot of disruption to our small businesses because of the Columbia Gas Disaster,” Ormond said, referencing the 2018 fires and explosions that devastated the Merrimack Valley. “Our business owners have been resilient by helping each other and taking advantage of government programs.”
Last spring when the pandemic first hit, 696 Andover business owners received a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan, according to the Small Business Administration’s records.
Palmer’s Restaurant was one of the businesses in Andover to receive that loan.
Owner and chef John Ingalls decided to “hibernate” this past winter, temporarily closing and working on renovations with plans to reopen later this summer, he said.
“We are looking forward to getting back to doing the functions we used to do, and to spruce the place up,” Ingalls said.
He’s stayed in touch with his staff, most of whom plan to return to visit and “continue the Palmer’s way. Keeping it with the homey feeling and keeping the same staff.”
Renovations, including a new wrap-around deck, were put on hold because the building was sold to his business partner, he said. However, Ingalls has been working with the architect to acquire the proper permits soon in time for a “late summer reopening, if all goes according to plan.”
Chris Schoonover, of Ipswich, is one of the new business owners in town. He recently opened a Fit Body Boot Camp franchise on Park Street.
Previously working in construction, Schoonover wanted to switch.
“The timing was perfect, people walking in here were ready to get out of their basement and living rooms and be working out with people again,” he said.
Also as people continue to re-emerge, Rachel Longo opened Shawsheen Arts Studio earlier this summer. Her studio’s focus is also on bringing people together post-pandemic, offering classes on performance and studio arts, as well as yoga.
“When the space on Lowell Street next to the Shawsheen Luncheonette became available, it felt like the perfect time to go for it, a time when we were starting to open back up and connect with people again,” Longo said. “I think folks are so ready to be together and share space and ideas in person and I wanted to offer a safe, fun and creative space for my community to do just that.”