Businesses in Muncie’s Village corridor rely heavily on foot traffic from Ball State University students. Now that coronavirus precautions have led the university to suspend in-person classes and close the dorms, these small merchants face challenges in the months ahead they normally only have in the summer months.
Morgan Roddy is the co-owner of Queer Chocolatier. The business has expanded in recent years from selling chocolate truffles at local farmer’s markets to a physical bakery and coffee-style place she calls the “chocolate house.”
Now, thanks to statewide restrictions on food businesses, she’s moving to a carry-out and shipping business model, which mirrors how her business got its start.
“The online store has been a blessing, but it’s also needing to be tinkered and adjusted on the fly just like the rest of the businesses in a lot of ways for all this crisis,” Roddy says.
Roddy had planned for her three part-time employees to work this week, but as the COVID-19 situation evolved, she paid them for the week and sent them home to encourage social distancing.
“I feel responsible for my employees. I feel responsible for the community that I serve, and that you know, if we can’t have dine-in business, then there’s one less queer safe space, so I feel that very acutely,” she says.
Still, Roddy says she’s hoping to be able to continue to serve the needs of students, and especially graduating seniors on campus, between now and when dorms close at the end of March.
“I hate to miss out on their last moments, but knowing that the fewer people we see, the better people are holding on to the restrictions of engaging in public activity, so it’s kind of a bittersweet position to be in,” she says.
The truffle shop is also dealing with chocolate supply disruptions. She’s had to operate Queer Chocolatier as a micro-bakery focusing on pastry-style goods, while also shifting business online and adding new options such as gift cards.
Roddy says in the short term, the changes are going to be challenging, especially at the emotional level. But for her, the longterm outlook is positive.
“I’m still bullish on what our business can do and what we mean to the community," Roddy says. "I still have a very positive and perhaps pollyannaish outlook on where we’re at.”