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They've weathered this storm: Downtown businesses react to Humana

The afternoon foot traffic helped many surrounding small businesses, but businesses WHAS 11 spoke to Wednesday said they've weathered this storm for two years now.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For months now, thousands of Humana employees have been out of the office, so they haven't been popping in to businesses for a quick bite to eat.

The afternoon foot traffic helped many surrounding small businesses, but businesses WHAS 11 spoke to Wednesday said they've weathered this storm for two years now, and they can handle whatever comes next.

Wayne Sweeney, Director of Operations with Merle's Whiskey Kitchen, said he wishes Humana well. “We'll welcome them back as soon as they get back. We love Humana, but we're not going to hang our hat on one group," he said.

That's the mentality Sweeney said small businesses like his need -- to adapt and survive. He compares it to a sports team.

"You're going to have injuries,” Sweeney said. “You're going to have players that get hurt. The next man up has to step up. The next girl up has to step up."

Just like every business, Sweeney said supply chain issues have caused disruptions and employees have gotten sick, but they adjust.

“Will you be able to wait on a ton of guests? Probably not,” Sweeney said. “But at least take care of the ones you do have. Give them the experience they deserve."

A few blocks away, ‘Against the Grain’ Co-owner Sam Cruz agrees and and said adapt and survive is the name of the game.

"The thing we want to do is provide the 'Against the Grain experience,' the best products we can and be great to our people,” Cruz said. 

"Humana's effort to protect their employees and keep their businesses closed through all the COVID problems has had an impact on our business," he said.

Cruz said the Main Street location has cut some of its lunch and happy hours because of it.

It's something Louisville Downtown Partnership Executive Director Rebecca Fleischaker isn't surprised about.

"Right now, downtown is a story of day and night because during the day there's still much less pedestrian activities and folks on the street than you would normally see,” Fleischaker said.

Overall, Cruz said he's lost about 20% of his regular business over the last two years.

"As long as we continue to garner the support of our loyal customers and the community I think we're going to be okay,” Cruz said.

Fleischaker says the resiliency of these businesses will keep them going, despite obstacles.

"I think that is testament to Louisville and our business community, so that is a beacon, I hope, of hope,” Fleischaker said.

She also said more than three times the number of businesses that have closed last year, have opened. 

Plus, last year more than a billion dollars in new development was invested in and around downtown, so Fleischaker said the confidence is definitely there.

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