AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Small business owners in Aiken say they are bouncing back amid the pandemic. But, they’re still concerns over inflation and COVID-19. “Before the pandemic. We, we were still in the growing phase,” General Manager of THE Village Cafe Jason Tufts told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Small business owners say they weren’t sure what to expect when the pandemic hit in 2020. “It was like truly scary. We didn’t know what was to come,” owner of A Steller Kitchen Jen Steller added.

Business owners say sales took a nosedive. “It was probably about 15% of sales, total lost through the time that we had to be closed,” Tufts shared. “We saw a major decrease in numbers, big time,” Steller recalled.

Restaurants like A Steller kitchen pivoted to stay open. “We started thinking outside of the box, you know, let’s open outside, let’s open, you know, delivery services,” she said.

“Probably after the last lift, that’s when everybody started to come back.” THE Village Cafe cook Ajor Johnson said.

Now customers are back inside — dining at their favorite spots. But they worry inflation might throw a wrench in their plans.”The cost in groceries, gas, everything has made a huge impact on our prices, which I don’t wanna raise. It’s a daily struggle, because from because from today to tomorrow it can change within a couple dollars,” Steller said. “I’m finding it hard to locate the normal products that I use. The beauty of it is just being creative. Charging it all out at one time trying to get a bunch of money, that’s not good business,” Tufts added.

“I haven’t seen any difference, seriously. I mean, the coffee is the same price. Food is about the same price.” THE Village Cafe Customer Claudio Corgnale said.

Protocols are in place to protect the health of their patrons and employees, too. “We did come in contact with one of our workers that actually caught COVID. So we had to shut down, and everyone in every worker got tested and we didn’t return until, until everybody got tested negative. And we made sure to take extra cautions to have everyone vaccinated, as far as staff goes,” Johnson shared. “We went from nobody in the parking lot for, but now we have, you know, five or six, seven or eight, nine or 10, you know, and it’s all scattered throughout the day,” Steller said.