Tracy Lee Andress, 45, owner of Black Sheep Antiques & Gifts in Dothan, knew two neighbors and close friends who died of COVID-19 within hours of each other on July 30.
Wayne Rogers, 65, who had worked for more than 25 years as a state prison officer, died about an hour after his wife, Lauri, 61, in adjacent rooms at the Southeast Health medical center in Dothan.
“I’ve lost two cousins, we’ve lost Wayne and Lauri, we’ve lost three other people from my community,” Andress said. “My father had to go tell his aunt that her son had died of COVID, through a window at a nursing home. She died two weeks later.”
It also has been a struggle to keep her small business open.
“My business has suffered,” she said. “We were closed for two months. I have an antique and gift shop and estate sale company. I have a salon. People are not spending money. They’re scared.”
She rents space to hairstylists, who now do half the business they did before.
“People aren’t even getting their hair cut,” she said.
While her business is now open, there’s not much in-store shopping.
“Business is still not the same,” she said. “I’m still putting stuff outside for outside pickup.”
Andress previously worked in the funeral home business. The funeral home she formerly worked at conducted 48 funerals in January, and it’s only one of seven funeral homes in Dothan, she said.
As a mother of five, Andress also has seen the effects of the pandemic on her children.
Her son, Preston, is in his senior year of high school. “There’s no senior trips, no anything,” Andress said. “We still don’t know if there’s going to be a graduation the family can go to. I don’t even know if I can print invitations.”
She also has an aspiring singer-songwriter daughter, Hallie Long, who moved to Nashville to try to break into show business while working a night shift at Amazon, but has struggled to connect with the industry while live music venues are closed.
“It’s hard for all of us,” Andress said. “You’ve just got to keep afloat. Lord, I hope and pray it gets better.”