As the first anniversary of COVID-19 is just around the corner, we can’t forget everything that has happened or what is happening to our neighborhoods. Many families have had loved ones who have lost jobs, homes, cars. Our local small stores, restaurants, and shops are going out of business. The things that make our neighborhoods our neighborhoods are slowly disappearing.
COVID-19 has made it so that our small and local businesses are struggling to survive, with stores closing, reduced staff, and profits falling because there is no business. “Job growth returned to the U.S. in January, with non-farm payrolls increasing by 49,000 while the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent,” the U.S. Department of Labor stated. With people losing their jobs and not having money, the last thing they are thinking about is going to restaurants or local shops causing them to go out of business.
During a time like COVID-19, small and local businesses are some of the hardest hit in our neighborhoods. These businesses are what make our communities our communities. They are mostly run by people who work in the neighborhood or city and are kept up and running by the public. But once the public stops working and stops going to these businesses, these businesses also stop working.
I interviewed Ferguson Herivaux, CEO of One Gig, a local skate and apparel shop located in the downtown Boston area.
Maria O’Malley (MO): “How was business like at the beginning of the pandemic?”
Ferguson Herivaux (FH): “Steedly growing. We were growing 20 to 30 percent annually prior to the pandemic.” Said Ferguson.
MO: How is business like now that the public has become used to a pandemic?
FH: “From June to November we were busy none stop… from November to know the streets have been quiet”
MO: “Did you get a PPP loan?”(Paycheck Protection Program)
FH: “No, we were not qualified because we had just expanded when the virus hit”
MO: “Do you have any plans or precautions in place in case an employee gets [COVID-19]?”
FH: “We shut the store down if we even think somebody has [COVID-19].”
MO: “ Have you made your business more online during [COVID-19] or is it still more in store?”
FH: “We are more in-store, we are working on our online but our culture is very personal.”
I also spoke with Eleanor Greene, owner of The West on Center, a local restaurant in West Roxbury.
MO: ”What's a typical day like now?”
Eleanor Greene (EG): “A typical day now is we don’t do lunch anymore. We are just open for dinner, takeout and brunch on the weekends."
MO: “How different is the environment now?”
EG: “We are in the hospitality business which means making people feel welcome. Even though masks keep us safe it doesn’t represent us. We had to re-invent the word hospitality here by wearing our masks, gloves, and social distancing.”
MO: “Did you get a PPP loan and if so did that money last”
EG: ”Yes we did. It lasted for a little while to help keep the light on but a PPP loan is like someone putting a safety net for a little while but you still have to walk on the tightrope.”
MO: “Have people been more or less complainant when coming into the restaurant”
EG: “People around here, because we are a neighborhood place, really want us to stay and they don’t want to lose us. So for the most part they have been really good to us plus because we are a neighborhood place we know a lot of people so they have mostly been compassionate.”
MO: “Do you have any [COVID-19] protocols set in place in case someone has it?”
EG: “We tell our staff if you don’t feel good don’t come to work.”
MO: “Is there anything else you would like people to know about how [COVID-19] is affecting your business?”
EG: “Eat out if you can and support your local business if you want to see them stay.”
After interviewing both of these local store owners I got the chance to go see them for myself. At One Gig you immediately feel comfortable when greeted by teens your own age who also skate. They also have hand sanitizer everywhere and social distance protocols that you can visually see as you walk throughout the shop.
At The West on Center, you can visually see the social distancing protocols put in place: the social distancing with the tables and hand sanitizer as soon as you walk in, as well as all employees wearing gloves and masks.
At the end of the day if you want to see your local businesses stay, go shop at your local businesses, go eat out, go support your local businesses and help save the places that make your neighborhood your neighborhood.