Small businesses face hardships, spread uplift and find creative ways to stay afloat
DILLON — It’s no secret that small businesses are struggling due to the novel coronavirus. While the county has ordered all nonessential businesses to close their doors, some businesses have found creative ways to keep going and others have had to stand by the wayside.
Kimberly Ghorai, owner of Meta Yoga, said that her studio is currently not doing any business. Ghorai has chosen not to conduct online yoga classes as she feels her business is not set up for this. Ghorai was confident that she and her team will weather the storm and stay afloat.
“I do anticipate being able to open back up,” Ghorai said. “We’re just cleaning out the studio right now.”
Ghorai said that as a yoga studio, she has almost zero overhead and hasn’t had to worry about things like food shipments. She said that she has kept her management team on and paid, although they are working fewer hours. However, yoga teachers are independent contractors and are not currently working at Meta Yoga.
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Although Ghorai is not conducting formal online yoga classes, she said she is doing free mini sessions on the studio’s Facebook page in order to stay in touch with the community. Ghorai also said that the studio has been getting a lot of support from its regular clientele asking if they can buy a punch pass early or allow their recurring membership to continue despite the shutdown.
“My favorite thing so far is seeing the community support for each other,” Ghorai said. “Anything that people can do to not be greedy in this time I think goes such a long way.”
Ghorai encouraged other local business owners to call the companies who they receive bills from and see if they can waive, discount or postpone bills as she has been able to do this with some of her studio bills. Lua Tôn, owner of Colisco Wearables and The Flying Crane Boutique in Frisco, suggested the same as her landlord allowed her to skip rent for the month of April. Alan Kelly, co-owner of Portfolio Gallery, owns the building from which his gallery — as well as other stores who are tenants of his — operate. Kelly said he is helping the tenants by looking at rent waivers and is funding employees who currently aren’t working in his gallery at least through April.
“We’re all working together to help us all survive,” Kelly said.
Tôn said that her online store is keeping her businesses going as she is able to provide clothing for pickup or delivery. As for those working to pack boxes for pickup or delivery, Tôn said they are keeping their distance from each other while working and she is employing only those who are under 60 and do not have children.
“Because everything happened so quickly we are still paying all our employees but we don’t know how long it will last,” Tôn said, adding that people should look on the bright side of the shutdown. “It’s a good time to spend time with your family and kids. So I think that’s a positive thing.”
Aside from the online store, Tôn said her team is using the time to clean, organize and improve their procedures. Tôn and her team are also encouraging optimism by posting signs on the stores that read things like, “We will survive,” “Focus on the good” and “The sun will rise again.”
Ashlie Weisel of Frisco’s Sunny Side Up Art Studio has also gotten creative with her business by delivering canvases and other supplies to people’s homes. She set up an “honesty shop” outside where people can follow an honor system to take what they like and leave cash. Weisel is also filming a live illustration class at noon everyday on the studio’s Facebook page. It is free to watch but the studio accepts donations.
“Donations have been coming in and it has been enough for me to cover my costs,” Weisel said. “As long as we can keep that up we’re going to sail through this just fine.”
Rockin’ R Ranch Trading Post, a convenience store in Keystone’s River Run village, is allowed to stay open as they carry grocery items. However, with nonpermanent residents instructed to leave by last Thursday, March 19, and seasonal resort employees instructed to leave workforce housing if they are able, Keystone is turning into a ghost town.
“Business is sparse and nonexistent,” manager Angie Roach said.
Roach explained that they have shortened hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and have laid off all employees aside from managers. She said on Wednesday, March 18, that some locals who work at the resort and haven’t left yet are still coming in, as well as tourists who are waiting on flights or rental cars.
“I would say that I’ve had probably eight customers today,” Roach said. “Three were local people that would normally be working for Keystone and then the rest were tourists.”
While his store is closed, Pete Meltzer said he is thankful that it is only him and his wife who typically run The Mountain Goat Clothing Co. in Breckenridge as he has not had to face the difficult decisions associated with employees who would not be needed.
“We’re obviously concerned about things,” Meltzer said. “We’re super curious about how long we’re going to stay closed and uncertain about what it will be like when we do open. We’re just trying to ride it out.”
The uncertainty of when businesses will reopen and how much patronage they will receive when they do is at the forefront of many business owners’ minds as well. While Kelly said he will have to wait and see when it is safe to reopen his gallery, James Vecchio, owner of Little Bar & Grilled, was confident the restaurant would reopen around Memorial Day, calling the closure an extended mud season.
To aid local businesses, the U.S. Small Business Association is providing small businesses with loans of up to $2 million as part of their Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Those interested can apply at DisasterLoan.SBA.gov/ela. While the program addresses the impact on small businesses, Rob Prescott, founder and CEO of 10K’ Merchant Association of Breckenridge, said this is not nearly enough and is not likely to help local small businesses.
“March is the biggest month of the winter season that allows us to survive mud season,” Prescott said. “Our needs are completely different than others’ needs.”
Prescott said he believes as much as 50% of small businesses in the community will end up closing permanently. He said a better solution would be for the federal government to change banking regulations so that they may help small businesses by deferring payments or reducing interest rates. Prescott stressed the urgent need for aid to small businesses.
“This stuff has to happen quickly,” Prescott said. “We have to streamline the processes. We all live in a world that was predictable and now isn’t predictable.”
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade also listed resources for businesses and employers on their website, ChooseColorado.com. Resources listed include information about the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment work-share program that acts as an alternative to laying off employees, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for employers based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and information from the Colorado Small Business Development Center on assistance with disaster loan applications and other disaster resources.
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