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Small Businesses Are Casualties of Corona Crisis

A large banner of hope has been erected below the entrance to Old Town Monrovia. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Terry Miller

The new sign below the entrance to Old Town Monrovia, albeit a bit cliché, says it all.

We are in this together and never before has the element of neighbor helping neighbor been more critical.

There are thousands of small businesses in the United States that have been forced to shut their doors, permanently in the fog of the COVID-19 lockdown of the economy.

In recent weeks we’ve mentioned the plight of local restaurants who cannot maintain their business model on take-out orders alone.

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a devastating impact on small businesses and hourly workers whose hours, shifts, and operations are coming to an abrupt and devastating full stop.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) Research Center’s latest survey on the current impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on small business shows “continued deterioration of the small business sector. The severity of the outbreak and regulatory measures that cities and states are taking to control it are having a devastating impact on small businesses.”

A rather sad Facebook post emerged over the weekend from one of the long-time businesses in Monrovia being forced to liquidate and close as a (partial) result of COVID-19. The Dollmakers’ Katttywompus announced Saturday that after nearly 30 years in business they will be going out of business. The local institution run by three remarkable women was a stalwart enterprise with exceptionally strong commitment to the community of Monrovia

(Left to right) The Fitzpatrick sisters: Cindy, Pam and Jennifer. – File Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

The Facebook post read:

“We will be closing our doors after 29 years of business. COVID-19 has turned a difficult retail business, into an impossible one.

“Over the last few years, we have suffered the loss of our beloved Pam and Jennifer (owners of the store, along with Cindy). They were our moms, grandmas, aunties, sisters and teachers. We, as a family, dearly miss them. Additionally, the loss of our Uncle Jim (Pam, Jennifer & Cindy’s brother), and our Uncle Ken, has left our family smaller and less able to meet the demands of running a small business.
“These many years, through good times and bad, our family has worked hard to help make Old Town Monrovia a happy, safe place for all. We’ve worked closely with our neighbors, the City of Monrovia and our customers.

“It’s important for us as a family, to let our customers and friends know that this wasn’t an easy decision. Our hearts are heavy. We’re both nervous and excited for our next adventure. Not just for us, but for our customers and friends too. We want you all to know that we love you. And that every minute of every day is truly a gift from God. We wish everyone the same love that we’ve experienced these last 29 years. We’ll miss being at 412 S. Myrtle Ave. every day. We’ll miss our customers, neighbors and friends. So many of you have grown up in our store. Some of you have been coming into our store even before you were born; and as little babies, and now you have babies of your own. We will miss being a part of your lives, but the good news is we won’t be far away.

“Our family has a second store at 310 S. Myrtle Ave., Wil’s Sport & Tackle, owned by Wil Fitzpatrick (Pam’s son). Also, Pam’s youngest son, Luke Fitzpatrick is the owner of Monrovia Tech Support, here in town and is the best IT guy in the world! And coming soon to Old Town Monrovia, Max Lee (Jennifer’s beloved grandson), will be opening a music studio to continue teaching music lessons. Cindy will be around too, just not sure where yet but we promise to keep everyone posted. Be assured that we are taking good care of Miss Cindy.

“We will also be continuing with our yearly Monrovia Traditional Music Gathering, the last Saturday of June, July and August (when things start back up again). We’ve been putting on these concerts for the last 15 years and hope you all join us again very soon!

“Lastly, we will not be gone. We will still be hanging around Old Town, supporting our friends and neighbors just as you all have done for us for so many years. Thank you to everyone, and to Old Town Monrovia. Our family loves you all!”

While California announced the statewide shelter-in-place order on Thursday, March 19 the impacts to businesses started earlier. According to Homebase, “On that Monday, the day before forced closures, hourly employees were already working 21% fewer hours nationwide. Once forced closures started taking effect on March 17th, the numbers dropped further. In the first week of forced closures and shelter-in-place orders, we saw as much as a 62% decline in the number of hours employees at small businesses were working. In the second week, employees were working 55-60% fewer hours during the week and 68% fewer over the weekend.

“…Small businesses are quickly shuttering nationwide. Eleven percent of all the businesses we studied were not operating as of Monday, March 16th, even before forced closures went into effect. On Tuesday, the first day of closures for many people, the number rose to 20%. By Sunday, March 22nd, 45% of businesses were not operating. In Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco, it was around 60%. By the second Sunday of social distancing, March 29th, more than 50% of businesses were not operating.”

Aside from the obviously devastating effects of COVID-19, there is tremendous confusion surrounding laws/guidelines/ mandates for businesses, especially restaurants. What can/can’t they do? When will they be able to reopen and how? There are a thousand and one questions, without one consistent or comprehensive answer.

An unprecedented economic shutdown combined with a deadly virus that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives throughout the world has left many of us numb.

What the future holds remains to be seen and how we reopen our already struggling small businesses.

Small business loans are tough to get and the big guys are getting federal paycheck protection(s). The Los Angeles Lakers got $4.6 million which they returned Monday night. Major chain restaurant Ruth’s Chris received a massive amount which they were forced to send back. According to MSNBC, “More than 245 public companies applied for at least $905 million from the government program that was billed as for small businesses without access to other sources of capital, according to Washington D.C.-based data analytics firm FactSquared.”

Compounding matter, IRS data shows that as of April 17 only about 9 million of eligible Californians have received their stimulus checks and it may take up to 20 weeks for all checks to be mailed out.

Despite the dilemma in which we find ourselves immersed, there is hope. As one ventures into Monrovia, a city sign welcomes you with the words: “Optimism isn’t canceled in Old Town Monrovia.”

On Tuesday, Governor Newson outlined, for the first time, the possible four stages for reopening the California economy.

April 29, 2020

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Terry Miller


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