NewsCovering Kentucky


Spotlight on Cynthiana: How one small community saved several local businesses from closing permanently

Posted at 2:57 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-12 12:22:35-05

CYNTHIANA, Ky. (LEX 18) — The first Kentucky city to feel the impact of COVID-19 was Cynthiana, where health officials recorded the state's first case of the virus.

Schools were closed, followed by businesses and churches. But the people in the town along the banks of the south fork of the Licking River found ways to help each other through hard times.

This town epitomizes "small-town America" — where everyone knows your name. Not one business had to close due to the pandemic permanently.

Somehow, business owners have made it work in Cynthiana, even during a pandemic.

"I want to say Cynthiana has a little magic here," said Tomi Clifford of Cynthiana's Chamber of Commerce. "Everyone kind of supports each other and comes together for each other."

Karey Riddell's Burley Market and Cafe has become famous for its coffee and cinnamon rolls.

"We hit the 16,000 cinnamon roll mark just this past month," Riddell said.

Riddell was fortunate. She could offer a socially-distanced curbside pick up. It's something you can't really do inside Spa 213 on Main Street. Holly Burden's doors were closed for ten weeks.

"We were blessed to have a little bit of money for an emergency fund, so that helped us," said Burden.

Once the stay-at-home-order was lifted, her regular clients got in a long line. That helped too.

"When we got back, the day we opened, we had 36 messages on our answering machine!" she said.

That's because everyone in town needed a haircut, or color, or both. Or, as Holly pointed out, some needed their spa treatment for medical reasons. While we were all on hiatus, no one forgot who provided those services in this town. And no one forgot where they shopped for the latest styles or gifts.

"They never really stopped pushing for us, whether that was sharing, or doing curbside pick-up with us, or online," said Kaylee Hernandez of Emerson Steel Boutique.

Those avenues saved Kaylee's business. She bought the Emerson Steel Boutique only one year ago. Stacie Eckler's Inspired Designs Boutique had to adjust as well, even, at times, eating some profit to make ends meet, but the community rewarded her too.

"Our community, they are like our soul," said Eckler. "They support... I mean, if something is going on, they support."

As the virus continues to spread, that support needs to continue: both from within and outside the community.

And for those famous cinnamon rolls... where would Karey be without them?

"People are truly keeping our doors open one cinnamon roll at a time!" she said.

Keeping business afloat during a pandemic has been a neat trick in this small town.