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Why some businesses are doing better than others during the pandemic

Shika Stewart, the owner of Yum Yum Dessert Bar on East Kings Highway in Shreveport, has found...
Shika Stewart, the owner of Yum Yum Dessert Bar on East Kings Highway in Shreveport, has found a niche in the marketplace for her rolled ice cream, as businesses jockey to survive during tough economic times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.((Source: Jeff Ferrell/KSLA))
Updated: Dec. 24, 2020 at 3:14 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - According to figures provided by the online reviewer Yelp Inc., they show about 800 small businesses are closing every day across the country.

Some analysts fear that figure could actually be far higher when final numbers are released.

Despite the enormous challenges and restrictions, based on the industry, some places have survived and even thrived.

When it comes to success of a business, especially during a time like a pandemic, experts strongly urge owners and managers to try to identify a need for a service or product that their business can focus on; what some describe as a niche in the marketplace.

One such example can be found with the family-owned Shreveport business known as Appli-K’s. They identified a critical need for face masks when the coronavirus began to circulate earlier in the year.

Store owner Katy Rhodes credits the sale of those masks for keeping her business afloat early on in the pandemic.

“Even before (the) quarantine started we, we were making masks. We were making masks for people that we knew or were requesting them. Then we started to grow by having orders coming in from out of state,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes says in August they also took the bold step of moving from their home of the last six years in the Red River District to the Lofts on the other side of downtown Shreveport.

“It was very stressful. But we knew, we knew it had to happen. We knew we had to do something to encourage people to come in, encourage people to shop, be more visible,” said Rhodes.

She says that flexibility, along with their unique product lines - including their own sewing and embroidering items - has led to a steady stream of regulars.

Now, with Appli-K’s, we saw that they found a niche in the marketplace and filled that need.

Elsewhere in Shreveport, a business created its own niche with something called rolled ice cream.

To say this is not your father’s ice cream doesn’t quite do it justice, as a liquid base is poured onto a cold plate, before it’s sliced, diced, flattened and then slowly scraped off into thin rolls in what’s known as Thai Ice Cream.

Shika Stewart opened the doors of her business, Yum Yum Dessert Bar, three years ago near the corner of East Kings Highway and Youree Drive.

Even a pandemic hasn’t closed her down, but she’ll be the the first to tell you they have had to adapt and make adjustments to survive when the lockdown began.

“So what we did, we did curbside service and we did call in orders. So you could call in your order. And then you just call us when you get here and come outside and pick it up,” said Stewart.

Stewart says they even brought one of the cold plates outside to prepare it in front of customers still in their cars.

Stewart says she is often asked what her secret is to staying active and profitable is even during the pandemic.

She says it’s actually quite easy: you listen to the customers.

While Stewart has created this specialized, or niche ice cream business, she’s also well aware that they’ll need to keep adapting and fine tuning their operation to keep the novelty fresh and the customers coming back for more.

That’s why they’ve even bought a food truck for some of their future plans.

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