"What if we should just close?" Thoughts of small business owners during pandemic

Hard decisions being made for survival
"What if we should just close?" Thoughts of small business owners during pandemic
Posted at 12:14 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 12:15:14-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Business owners across the country are having to make tough decisions, to ensure they can stay afloat once all of the 2019 novel coronavirus closures come to an end. News5 learned about some innovative ways local small business owners have altered their business models to stay open, and how they are doing mentally during this uncertain time.

AJ Frasca, of Panino's Westside restaurant, said they have been in Colorado Springs for decades. Frasca said they had to let go of some of their wait staff, but eventually had to hire back some of their kitchen crew to meet their number of takeout orders. In total, Frasca said 80 employees were let go between their different locations. "It was so out of our hands... We have all of these people here, and then next thing you know, we don't have anything for them to do... We've been thinking of how to bring on servers to do delivery," said Frasca.

Meanwhile, the owner of Red Leg Brewing Company said they are still selling beer to liquor stores and customers, but their taproom is closed. Baldwin said he has been able to keep his employees, but sales have been fluctuating. "Man, it's tough, to work as hard as so many entrepreneurs have in our community, for years and for decades and to literally have it all possibly go away in a very quick amount of time... How do we overcome those things? I don't know, I think we're all learning every day. What worked for me three weeks ago, is certainly not working anymore," said Baldwin.

The Picnic Basket Catering Company Co-Owner Michelle Talarico said they have been in business for 31 years, but this year, she projects they will lose roughly a third of their annual profit. They have lowered the minimum amount of food that can be ordered from their company, and have added curbside pickup as a service. "We're going to try and get out and mentor some other businesses that haven't been doing it for 30 years, because it's hard even on the best days," said Talarico.

Normally, Talarico said they would have around 30 full-time employees and 50-100 part-time employees at this time of year, and would be catering about 15-25 events a day. Now, they have furloughed a few employees and have 8-10 people still employed full-time. "What if being optimistic isn't enough? What if we're not being smart? What if we should just close? And we decided that the best way we could lead is to be our authentic selves and our authentic selves are to help the community and to care about our employees... We're going to be here for our clients, we're going to be here for our employees. And even if those of us left standing have to do all of the work so that there is a company to save, we're committed to doing that," said Talarico.

Those with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado (BBB) said almost all industries are now being impacted by COVID-19. The CEO and Executive Director of the BBB of Southern Colorado, Jonathan Liebert, said they have a team dedicated to helping get information on grants and loan programs to small businesses. "We're definitely concerned about business owners themselves really feeling drained, depleted, tired, and then starting to kind of be worn down, and really starting to deal with stress in a not so positive way," said Liebert.

Liebert said they have arranged a webinar regarding COVID-19 related scams for April 17, and he is also working to set up a wellness webinar for small business owners in the future.

Those with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) have been working closely with local businesses to apply for financial support. The SBDC said our community learned a lot from the Waldo Canyon Fire, and that local business owners are resilient. "We know that while some won't make it, some will come back even stronger... I think that's the hardest part of all of this is having to say goodbye to some people that they know personally very well," said the Senior Disaster Consultant for the SBDC, Cory Arcarese.

Arcarese also said many local businesses have applied for federal small business loans, but that money has not arrived yet. She said she is working to get a timeline of when that support could come. In the meantime, she said there are locally funded loans that have been going out, which can be found on their website along with videos detailing exactly how to apply.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health during this time and needs someone to talk to, Colorado Crisis Services can be called at 1-844-493-TALK (8255).