FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Three new businesses are opening in Downtown Fort Pierce despite being in the midst of a pandemic.
The Hard Axe Lounge, Florida Hemp Collective and a smoothie shop called Beach Bowls will be included in the ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 14.
The Hard Axe Lounge and Florida Hemp Collective have been open for less than a month.
Both owners said the biggest battle in opening a business in 2020 is getting customers to come.
"We were excited to start opening up in April and then the pandemic hit," said Florida Hemp Collective co-founder Tim Gunther. "The challenge is how do we get out to the market and get people to come in."
Gunther said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are making it tough for him to pursue his business model.
"We want to hold education classes," said Gunther. "But I'm not going to start an education class where I put chairs out and if 30 people show up, I've got to be respectful. I don't have the room for it."
Across the sidewalk on Second Street is the Hard Axe Lounge.
"It's been a crazy uphill battle," said owner Julian Hewatt.
Hewatt said his new business is not eligible for CARES Act funding through the state, but he is thankful the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce is doing what it can to help.
"Most of the time your membership fees are anywhere from $400-$500," said Hewatt. "However, for downtown Fort Pierce businesses, they cut the membership fees down to $200."
Both Hewatt and Gunther said they're in this battle together and that their businesses are here to stay.
"COVID is here," said Gunther. "It's changed the way that we've done things. But it doesn't mean you have to change the way that you live."