Jo Ann Ray, owner of Stone Bridge Books, Gifts & Music in Ashland City, holds a book titled ‘You’ll Get Through This’. 

Standing behind the bar at Sidelines Grill last Thursday during what’s normally the lunch rush, Michelle Thompson gazed out at the mostly empty tables and said her staff must brace for layoffs.

The popular Ashland City restaurant was reeling last week due to coronavirus fears, with business off some 75 percent, said Thompson, the general manager.

“We’re like a big family here, which makes it really hard,” Thompson said, adding that shifts had already been cut and some staff members could lose their jobs as early as this week

Cheatham County got its first confirmed case of COVID-19 last Wednesday, though it was the beginning of last week when Sidelines began to see business plummet, Thompson said.

Sunday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 17 affecting businesses across the state which began late Monday night until midnight on Monday, April 6. The executive order closes restaurants’ dining room and limits them to drive-thru, take-out and delivery.

Thompson and her co-workers look at what’s going on around them and don’t know what to think about how widespread and severe the health and economic effects will be and how will their lives change.

Sidelines server-bartender Samantha Taylor doesn’t have the answers, but her positive attitude keeps her from stressing out or getting depressed.

“You’ve got to keep your head up and do the best you can,” she said.

At Stone Bridge Books, Gifts & Music in Ashland City, owner Jo Ann Ray said last Thursday that business has dropped off as people spend less time in public over coronavirus concerns

“People are scared to get out,” she said.

Ray has no plans to shutter her downtown shop.

“I’m just not going to respond by fear,” she said.

She added, though, that the situation is fluid because no one knows what each new day will bring.

“I might be closed tomorrow. It’s crazy,” she said.

She said she has sensed stress in the community and seen evidence of it on social media.

There have been some positives for her shop, she said. Interest has risen in health-related items such as elderberry syrup, a product that Ray said helps the immune system.

Across the street from Ray’s store, Sheyegirl Coffee Co. was shuttered. The business said March 17 on Facebook: “I have decided that in order to keep myself, the people I love, you and the people you love safe I need to remain closed. I hope I am wrong and worst case I need to take out a loan, but if I risk it I will never forgive myself.”

Other Ashland City businesses were affected as well.

Don Pancho Mexican restaurant had a sign saying staff was “cleaning and sanitizing for your health and safety!” A second sign there said to-go orders were available.

Ashland City Dental posted a sign announcing reduced hours and postponements of all non-emergency care.

Ashland City Armory, on the other hand, appeared to be doing well amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Display cases in the Main Street gun shop were nearly empty last Thursday, and traffic in and out of the store was brisk.

The manager declined to comment on sales, saying the owner needed to be consulted. Gun sales have skyrocketed nationwide since the contagion has been in the news.

Mostly, though, the retail sector has been pummeled by the new coronavirus.

Back at the Sidelines Grill in Ashland City, Thompson, the general manager, was trying to wrap her mind around it.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “But it’s not just us. It’s the whole world.”

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