Local businesses struggling with COVID-19 shutdown
Last updated 4/22/2020 at 8:03pm
With stay-at-home orders, non-essential businesses being forced to close and social distancing creating a limit to how much people can go out and use services, many business owners are in a difficult position.
Some find that even though their business can technically stay open, regulations make it impossible to do so. Dr. Jarod Waters, owner of Fountain Chiropractic and Wellness Center, temporarily closed his business on March 20. He said that while authorities have listed chiropractors as critical, the specific work he does is considered elective. Authorities haven't given many details about what makes a medical, surgical or dental procedure critical beyond the four criteria listed in the State of Colorado's Executive Order D 2020 009. It states procedures can only be done if not doing them means the patient's life will be threatened, extremities or organ systems will permanently dysfunction, a disease or condition will progress or metastasize, or the patient's condition will quickly deteriorate causing a threat to life or vital function. Waters noted these state criteria are really surgical criteria, which means chiropractic services don't fit well under them.
Waters hopes to reopen his office on April 27. At present, he's taking 50 to 60 calls a day from patients and advising many of them via email about whether to seek emergency care. He also uses the center's Facebook and Instagram pages to make sure patients know he'll reopen when possible. Dr. Waters has laid off both of his employees during this time, since their front office work couldn't be done remotely. He hopes to re-hire at least one of them when business resumes.
"I'm hoping that the high volume of calls I'm getting means that I'm just going to pick up where I left off," Dr. Waters says. "We were flourishing, we were seeing 40 to 50 people a day. The only advertising I do is through the ad I place in Fountain Valley News, my website and word of mouth, and I've been able to get generally 50 to 60 new patients a month. I'm hoping to hit the ground running and continue the great work we have been doing."
Other businesses have been able to stay open, but have had to make significant adjustments. James Sanchez, owner of Western Omelette 2, has managed to keep his business open during to-go and pick-ups orders. When asked how the pandemic has affected business, Sanchez said, "It's been very hard."
To make the change, Sanchez had to let go of half his staff. He also recently expanded the restaurant's hours so they can serve dinner as well as breakfast and lunch. Currently, the hours have shifted from the original 6 a.m.-3 p.m. schedule to a 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. While business is still below average, Sanchez says the restaurant is staying afloat. Sanchez plans to rehire his full staff after this situation ends, and to keep the expanded hours as the restaurant's new schedule.
For smaller businesses that sell specialty items and rely on seasonal customers, things are much less certain. Diana Wing has run Dick's Rock Shop for 42 years, but had to close on March 25. Wing has no idea when she will reopen, although based on Governor Polis' latest announcements she thinks it will happen sometime in mid May. Since Wing runs the store herself, she hasn't had to lay off anyone; but she has no income without the store's profits. She doesn't even have money to cover rent or other expenses.
"I had a really good business up until this virus happened," Wing reflected.
In the past she's made a particularly good profit from summer and holiday sales. She plans to advertise a 20- to 30-percent discount sale when she reopens the store, but worries that may not be enough. She's not certain that customers will shop as much as they used to after this virus ends. If costumers don't return quickly enough, she won't make enough to cover her initial expenses and keep Dick's Rock Shop going.
Tom Downing, president of the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce, said more than anything else he's seeing a lot of frustrated business owners.
"Everyone is grieving the normal life we were used to," Downing said. "Something as simple as getting up and going to open your business is not an opportunity for most businesses. The biggest challenge is uncertainty. If we knew what the rules are, we can adjust. Hard workers don't want to be home, they want to go to work, and interact and serve their clients. They want to have a day at work, then enjoy coming home. Right now if you work from home it can feel as if you are intruding on your home life."
Downing noted that the situation is especially hard since many businesses are not able to pay their employees during this time. Some businesses have applied for small business loans, but the federal government's funding for that ran out last week. At present, the Chamber is connecting business owners with local banks, and hopes a second round of small business loan funding will arrive. Downing said the Chamber is using Zoom to keep doing its meetings every first and third Friday. He finds the meetings are boosting morale, especially for business owners who aren't seeing many people.
"With this prolonged home stay, many people feel they are the only one feeling isolated, stressed, or alone," he said. "By seeing and encouraging each other on a regular basis, we are getting a lot of positive feedback. We are focused on what 'we get to do,' not what we can't."
The City of Fountain website currently lists several resources available to business owners. The resources include links to sites that explain how long tax extensions will last, places to apply for special loans or grants (such as the Economic Relief Fund), and several Colorado business surveys.
The site also has various guides (or "toolkits") that business owners can download explaining emergency loans, consultation services and other tools they should look for to survive this difficult season. Business owners can access these resources at the http://www.fountaincolorado.org and looking up "Small Business Relief - Resources Guide."
Editor's Note: Next week we will take a look at a unique industry that is riding this wave of uncertainty a little differently than most - food trucks. We will take a look at how this shutdown is changing their usual mode of operation and how several are succeeding.