MAIN STREET MATTERS WITH SARAH CLAVIN: Coronavirus, small businesses

MAIN STREET MATTERS WITH SARAH CLAVIN: Coronavirus, small businesses

I am not sure where you stand on the COVID-19, whether you are intrigued by it, totally sick of hearing about it or terrified by what it could do.

I fall somewhere in the middle of it all. Somewhere strange between peace and anxiety, somewhere between confidence and uncertainty of the future. Frankly, I am a little fatigued of hearing about it and the daily, often hourly, updates and changes are beginning to wear on me.

Since it is here, however, and a very real part of our daily lives, I am going to write one single article on it and then move on. There are other things going on in the world despite what the media and social media would have you to believe. Since I am no medical professional, the focus of this article is how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect small, local businesses.

As a partial owner of a small local business that has been a part of the greater Tulsa community for 60 years, the repercussions, both seen and unseen, of the COVID-19 are terrifying. The seen include (but are not limited to), loss of profit, loss of income, loss of employees, shutting our doors for an unknown period of time, loss of customers, overhead to be paid even though we are not operating, loss of funds already allocated to marketing/advertising and big events. The unseen is formidable, they will ebb and flow with the changes of the virus but may include many long-term losses that we cannot even predict at this time.

In the nature of every business, there is a busy season and slow season, this season, spring and summer are our “safety seasons.” We are filled to the brim and operating at our max so that when the slow season comes, we (our business and employees alike) maintain the same level of security that they did during the busy season.  Even such a short-term closing as two weeks is enough to do significant damage to our current and future seasons, most businesses in our industry are predicting closer to a 6-8 week closing, which would cause significant if not detrimental damage to our businesses in the long term.

Not to mention our employees. As a small business we lack the massive capital that retailers and restaurants hold in reserve to continue paying employees long term during a time of recession and uncertainty. As a small business our staff has become like our family and we couldn’t image them (or their families) doing without.

Jenks Mayor, Robert Lee, shared a heartfelt statement recently calling social distancing an “act of courage, a sacrifice for the greater good. I can’t overstate the pain I feel, knowing the effect that this is having on Jenks businesses and the labor force, as well as the cascading effects that will occur throughout the community. This is the best bad option available to us. We will get through this, and these steps will help us get there” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

What can you do in the meantime to help? Shop small and local. We are not the only small business in Tulsa and Jenks that is suffering through these uncertain times. Many local businesses have made online or phone purchasing a real option in order to continue operating. Instead of ordering from Amazon, hop on their website and grab a book, instead of running to Target, order from that local boutique on Main, and instead of cancelling your event or your lessons or your class, postpone them. Small businesses are hoping to survive this, and the reality is many may not. As a business in the service industry, I can candidly say that we are not looking to keep anyone’s money, we do not wish for anyone to lose money, but we are asking that you would ride this out with us. Postpone where you can so that our employees can be taken care of, allow credits and make-up and rescheduling when possible, so that your child’s favorite teacher or staff member can continue employment during this season and will be there when you return.

Because here is the hard reality – we will all return to normalcy at some point. Activities, classes, restaurants and even schools will regain routine at one time or another and when we do only those you support during this time will make it through.

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