SLADE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Many have looked to the great outdoors for a safe social distancing escape.
One of the most popular spots in the Bluegrass this summer is Red River Gorge.
"We think it's the most beautiful place in the world, and we get to live here and we get to work here," said Jodie Brandenburg.
But for a time earlier this year, the hiking trails at Red River Gorge were shut down for more than two months due to the pandemic.
The height of the restrictions started in late March, which was less than a month after Jodie's family opened Brandenburg General Store.
"We saw an opportunity to buy this building. It had been sitting vacant for about 8 years," said Brandenburg.
The store had to close almost immediately after opening. Without hikers and campers around, the family temporarily closed their other business, Red River Smokehouse.
"We just packed up and saved as much money as we could save, and did some renovations while we were closed," said Brandenburg.
Next door to the store is La Cabana Mexican Restaurant. The owners kept the restaurant open for carry-out, and also took advantage of a closed dining area.
"When they shut the restaurant down, it allowed me to close my bar and do this big addition for the outdoor seating area," said Billy Townsend.
Unfortunately, an employee tested positive for the virus a few weeks ago, so Townsend locked up the restaurant out of caution. In the time since, they've cleaned and finished up projects.
Townsend said the worker is out of quarantine now, and the restaurant reopens Friday.
"We're having record sales almost every weekend. Even during the week we're just very busy," said Townsend.
At the start of the shutdown, Miranda Fallen with Powell County Tourism worried what businesses would even stick around when people could safely return.
"Our visitor reports are showing that we are having about 8,000 visitors a month coming in to the Welcome Center alone," said Fallen. "Everyone's been kind of retreating to the outdoors. And that is the one thing that has stayed true throughout this pandemic is the outdoors are still safe."
The trails are back open, and Fallen says businesses are doing better than usual this time of year. She hopes the momentum continues into the fall and a post-pandemic life down the road.