OCALA, Fla. — One of the busiest commercial corridors in the city of Ocala has lost several national businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. City and county leaders said they are doing what they can to make sure State Road 200 stays vibrant, but several business owners in that area say they might not make it.

What You Need To Know

  • Ruby Tuesday, Cody's Roadhouse, Krystal have shut down

  • Smaller, local restaurants are being affected, too

  • Some properties being redeveloped, Marion area chamber says

Pie-O-Mine restaurant opened a little less than a year ago, and already it's struggling to stay open. 

“It’s just very eerie, I guess,” Pie-O-Mine employee Abbigail Keaton said. “Nobody really in here. Just trying to find little stuff to do.”

The owner took a major hit, starting when the pandemic began to affect the state in about mid-March.

“We had to lay off all our employees,” Pie-O-Mine owner Todd Sugarman said. “Nobody came in. Then we went to my manager, and thank God he works 7 days a week, and we went to takeout.”

Pie-O-Mine isn't alone. Several major national franchises have also closed along State Road 200, near the I-75 exit — including Ruby Tuesday, Cody's Original Roadhouse, and Krystal Burgers. Some, such as Bojangles and Pier One, closed stores nationally. Ruby Tuesday has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but is expected to reorganize and reopen some of its stores.

“I don't know a place I'd rather be than in the Ocala metro area, and if I'm in commercial, I want to be along [State Road] 200,” Kevin Sheilly of the Ocala-Marion County Chamber of Commerce said.

“The nice thing is we're starting to see some of that real-estate move for more redevelopment opportunities.”

Meanwhile, smaller business owners are feeling the pinch.

“It's taken a lot of money out of this thing, and it's unfortunate,” Sugarman said.