East L.A. Businesses vs. COVID-19: The Before and After Effects During a Pandemic
As California continues to succumb to the torment of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with an issued statewide county color-coded monitoring system, communities across the state are still adjusting to the confines of a threatening disease.
In East Los Angeles, retail businesses, flower shops, record stores, nail salons, barbershops, and other businesses, both big and small, were impacted alongside the livelihood of most owners and their employees.
East Los Angeles is home to various small businesses that have built grassroots support in their community for many years. Local boutiques, flower shops, and nail salons are some of the most prominent businesses in the area.
The businesses were ordered to halt operations in mid-March when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued stay-at-home orders in an effort to flatten the curve. While small businesses were threatened with bankruptcy, even some of the most prominent retail companies such as PacSun, Nike, and Old Navy face severe financial consequences, impacted radically due to revenue losses, an oversupply of stock, employee shortage, and rent that still needs to be paid even during and after the lockdowns are lifted.
Cities in Southern California–a hub for creatives and innovators–have had to make drastic shifts in everyday operations during this pandemic to ensure safety among a number of communities.
The Garage Board Shop
Jerry Carrera, co-owner and co-founder of The Garage Board Shop on South Atlantic Blvd. in East Los Angeles, has run his local business since 2009.
But “The Garage” is more than just a local retail skate shop. Carrera’s business aims towards helping inner-city youth grow through education rather than indulging in gang-related activities, or even drug abuse.
The board shop is well known throughout the East LA community because of its impact on the younger generation. The Garage has built a credible reputation and has been observed through documentaries, movies, and many local news stations.
The Garage’s mission statement expresses that “there is a strong need for education-based programs geared towards the inner-city youth in East Los Angeles.” Skate 4 Education is a program Carrera came up with that teaches inner-city youth the value of education. Unfortunately, this program had to be put on pause, too.
As COVID-19 cases began to rise and the city succumbed to lockdown, Carrera had to find a way to keep his shop operating.
“When the pandemic happened, obviously we went from the green charts to zero in three months, but by closing our doors we were still here to help the community,” Carrera told Scriberr News.
Carrera explained he turned the shop into a food pantry, with visitors coming seven days a week for assistance. They fed 200 to 300 families per day, he said.
“In reality, I literally closed my doors for three days. It took me a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to figure it out. When I came back on Monday, I came back with about ten pallets of food, emptied out the retail clothing in my shop, and fed my community,” he said.
Since making that transition, The Garage Board Shop now runs under normal operations. Their loyalty to their customers is what keeps many people coming back, he said. Not only is the shop continuing with their retail business, but every Friday, Carrera’s shop transforms into a food bank, feeding families throughout East Los Angeles.
Green Rose Flower Shop
Felix Rabadán, founder and owner of Green Rose Flowers located on East Olympic Blvd. in East Los Angeles, has been in the flower business since he was 14-years-old. Starting at such a young age, Rabadán quickly learned how to run a flower shop.
After 20 years, his love for flower arrangements and the satisfaction of making people happy through vibrant colors and fresh scents inspired Felix to open a shop of his own, Green Rose Flowers, in 2018.
But when the pandemic rocked the state, Rabadán quickly ran out of customers and clients.
Not only was he forced to close his store, but other forms of revenue were also cut off.
“Before, when a lot of schools were open for graduations, we would cater to those schools. Then when this happened, we lost a lot of money because graduations were being canceled,” Rabadán told Scriberr News.
In July, Rabadán decided to open his doors to the public, but unfortunately, his business still suffered from the loss of customers.
Loyal customers still visit every few weeks for a fresh batch of flowers, but sometimes it’s still not enough, he said.
“It is very hard living through this,” he said.
“I still have to pay rent not only for the shop, but for myself, and most importantly, I need to feed my family.”
Despite COVID-19 greatly affecting Green Rose Flowers, Rabadán said his spirit is still motivated not to give up on his business.
Big retailers have also been forced to significantly adapt their company protocols.
Alexis Quijas, assistant manager at the PacSun Montebello location, expressed the company’s struggle and how they’ve had to quickly adjust.
“We were officially shut down when the first initial lockdown happened, but once we got the chance to reopen we were really busy. We were reaching our weekend sales numbers on a normal weekday, which was good because we had to gain back a lot of the money we lost during those three months,” Quijas told Scriberr News.
“But unfortunately after that one week, business dropped again and it was dead for awhile. Now we are closed to the public again, but we are still able to conduct business through curbside pickup and through ship-from-store orders,” she said.
The company as a whole has had to adjust to the “new norm” of social distancing and wearing masks. One of the most difficult parts about reopening was learning how to operate without any human contact, said Quijas.
PacSunreleased specific techniques on how to conduct sales while maintaining six feet from a customer, and also provided “game plans” for how the company would operate in a safe and effective manner.
The Montebello location still remains closed to the public and will not reopen until the governor declares it is safe to do so.
Business owners continue to adjust to the “new normal” and find creative ways to operate in order to keep their company from closing for good. This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom is slated to address additional reopening protocols.