LA VERNE, Calif.–In efforts to contain the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) through aggressive lockdown mandates across the nation, many small businesses immediately felt the consequences.

California businesses such as bars, restaurants, and clothing stores have been forced to either close shop or adjust the way they do business.

Many small business owners are struggling to pay property rent and their employees. In March, the U.S unemployment rate skyrocketed to 4.4 percent, or 7.1 million Americans.

“As of March 19th, our employees were furloughed because we had over 75 percent of sales disappear overnight, so we took it upon ourselves (my sister and I) to pay rent,” Co-owner of Meek Coffee House in Redlands, Elizabeth Bueti, told Scriberr News.

Meek Coffee House is a family-owned business run by Bueti and her sister, Gianna Rabodi. Their shop is unique because they roast their own coffee and serve only ethically traded coffee, they explained.

“My sister and I always wanted to open a business because we were raised watching our mom owning her own business, which was inspiring to us,” Bueti said. 

Elizabeth Bueti and Gianna Rabodi, co-owners of Meek Coffee House. Photo taken by Josh Estrada

Due to the stay at home orders, the two sisters had to quickly adjust their operations. The coffee shop is now doing curbside to-go orders, ensuring the safety of both themselves and their customers.

The Meek Coffee House also continues to heavily promote their business through social media @themeekhouse.

“Redlands is a community like none other,” Bueti said. “We rally together regardless of what the cause is. When this hit, all the small businesses in Redlands started to repost one another’s pages.”

She added: “We are advertising for them, they are advertising for us.”

Even with the adjustments, the two sisters are still having a difficult time paying rent. They have applied for a small business loan to receive some relief. 

“We have been negatively impacted by this, but at the end of the day, we all want everyone to be happy and healthy,” Bueti said.

Doggy daycare remains open but experiences fewer clients

Another small business owner impacted in Southern California is Anissa Basqueasy. She is the manager of a doggy daycare center in Rancho Cucamonga called The Furr Season Dogg Resort. 

The dog resort offers services such as day play, overnight stay, grooming, and training. Her business is also experiencing a significant decrease in the number of clients due to the stay at home orders. 

Their most valuable and popular service is the overnight stay, but clients are no longer leaving on vacations, so the demand for this service has dropped off. 

The Furr Seasons Dog Resort

“We were averaging about 22 reservations a day, and now it has dropped down to five or six a day,” Basqueasy said. “We have had to furlough all but three staff members.” 

The Furr Seasons Dogg Resort is continuing business, but they’ve made serveral adjustments,  including cutting their operational hours and doing curbside pick-up. 

They continue to promote themselves on Instagram @the_furr_seasons_dog_resort to let their community know they’re still open. 

“It is going to take us a while for us to get back into the swing of things, we have been lucky that we have had a lot of our regular clients coming in still,” Basqueasy said. 

“When the orders are lifted, we will gradually see the business going back up, but our main goal is to get our staff members back to payroll.”

A small business struggles to keep up and closes its doors

Gume Vargas is a seamstress in Cathedral City and owner of Alterations by Gume. Unfortunately, she has not been as fortunate and as the other businesses and was forced to close her shop because she has not received any clients since the outbreak.

Vargas left her number at the window of her business to see if she would get any orders, but has yet to receive any orders, she explained. 

“We need to pay rent,” Vargas said. “I just pray that all this is gone, and we start business as we used to.”

On March 27, Gov. Gavin Newsom made it illegal for landlords to evict tenants if they’re unable to meet their rent, but this only applies to residents, not business owners with property rent to pay. 

Since closing, three of her employees are now without work. Due to the expenses of the business, she is currently applying for a small business loan, just like the Meek Coffee House owners. 

These are all familiar stories for many small, or family-owned businesses, across America. Many small family-owned businesses are relying on loans to stay afloat. 

Receiving relief funds isn’t the easiest feat

The CARES Act was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, containing $376 billion in relief funds for workers and businesses, in addition to the other funding programs by the U.S Small Business Administration

The CARES Act provides several funding options for individuals to choose from, such as paycheck protection, EIDL loan advance, SBA express bridge loans, and SBA debt relief. 

But applying for additional funding has not been an easy process for business owners.  

“We have applied for the loan, it’s tricky because only a few banks were on board right away, but as of yesterday we are a step closer,” Bueti said. 

It seems as if every business has felt some negative impact from the coronavirus, although many companies continue to adapt to this temporary normal. 

Angat Gaada is the owner of an Indian food restaurant, Bombay Beach, in downtown L.A. The restaurant specializes in north Indian regional food and includes vegan options.

Garlic cheese naan. Courtesy of Angat Gaada

During the first two weeks of the stay at home orders, he lost a lot of customers due to the ban on dine-in services, which accounts for a majority of restaurants’ revenue.

“Ever since the pandemic, we’ve been asked only to do delivery or takeout order, so we saw a huge drop in business,” Gaada explained. 

And like the other businesses, he has adapted restaurant functions in order to survive during the pandemic. In addition to only doing delivery or pick up orders, the hours of operations have been cut shorter to focus solely on staying open during dinner hours. 

Gaada knows he isn’t the only one suffering, too. So, he’s also taken it upon himself to provide pantry and grocery items for his customers. When ordering a dinner special for the night, customers can now ask to buy some fresh fruit, vegetables, and pantry items, if available. 

The produce Bombay Beach offers. Courtesy of Angat Gaada

The margins for selling food products are scarce, but they want to help the community by adding an extra service because “we are all in this together,” Gaada said. 

“Without glamorizing it, this is once in a lifetime opportunity to be operating a business under a pandemic,” Gaada said. 

The pandemic has forced him to think outside of the box, learning how to make things work with the bare minimum while still being efficient, he explained. This is true for many small business owners being thrust into hardship.

Many small family-owned businesses rely on their community, so in turn, Gaada believes this extra service to his customers is a duty in helping his community, he explained. 

“Focusing on the positive and not focused on the negative, that’s what gives us a fresh outlet,” Gaada said. 

Written ByMaydeen Merino

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