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Profiles in Small Businesses During Lockdowns
The economic hurt is deep and will become permanent

The lockdown allows many businesses to remain open while the closure of others seems to be mandated. The stated reason for lockdowns is to save lives. Two businesses forced to close are tenants of the small mall at the end of Edgewater St. in West Salem. One is a karate studio and the other a brew pub. The karate studio is owned and operated by a young couple who have proven for the last several years they can operate their business successfully. Their bread-and-butter customers are kids. In addition to physical fitness, the karate lessons teach these kids self-esteem. Parents see this and that’s why the karate school stays at full enrollment. Since COVID, no one in the age group of these kids has died of COVID. They had in-person classes for most of the summer with no adverse consequences for the kids or instructors.

That doesn’t mean they can’t become infected. In previous times when the kids get sick they stay away from classes. Teachers can get sick too. That’s why we have substitute teachers. The young couple are in an age group that has also experienced no deaths from COVID. Statistically this business is less than 2% risky. Right now the couple is doing some lessons on Zoom to avoid financial doom. They need understanding on their rent obligations and fortunately their landlords are not highly leveraged and can accommodate postponements for now. Owning this building is the landlord's retirement plan. The lockdown threatens both the young couple’s financial security and his.

Another business at the same location is a brew pub. Again, it has been operated successfully providing a neighborhood gathering place that reminds me of the sitcom Cheers. The owners had no incidences of infections with customers or staff during the summer reopening. Now that they are locked down again they can provide very minimal customer service with outside seating and growler pickups. All staff is back on unemployment again trying to meet their living expenses for an undetermined amount of time. The couple that own the business had several years of successful operation but are burning through savings that would go toward retirement. Statistically this type of business is also below 2% in contributing to the spread of infection.

These people and their employees aren’t operating the places where the infection is being spread. They have been very successful for many years because they provide a service that is good for the spirit of their customers. That spirit is being punished as are the entrepreneurial spirits of these small business people. 99.97% of Oregonians have survived COVID. The survival rate for small business is...to be determined.

--Tom Hammer

Post Date: 2020-12-21 20:24:50

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