COVID-19

How 3 small businesses are surviving the pandemic

Sean McHenry Aug 27, 2020
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Patty Delgado, CEO of Hija de tu Madre, at the e-commerce company's warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Delgado)
COVID-19

How 3 small businesses are surviving the pandemic

Sean McHenry Aug 27, 2020
Heard on:
Patty Delgado, CEO of Hija de tu Madre, at the e-commerce company's warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Delgado)
HTML EMBED:
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It’s no surprise that many small businesses are hurting. According to the latest figures from the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, nearly 44% of respondents saw a moderate decline due to the pandemic. But what does that look like in practice?

Last year, Marketplace followed three small businesses through the holiday retail season. We checked back in with those business owners to see how the pandemic has shaped the way they worked. The following are transcripts, lightly edited for clarity.

Patty Delgado, CEO of Hija de tu Madre in Los Angeles

“Our planners are basically our key item every year. And this year, we’re having to order them even farther in advance than we normally would just to make sure that we have these planners on time. And I’m honestly a little bit worried. This is our first year ordering inventory through a boat. And that takes a really long time. But, you know, we’re at this point that’s like, even a little bit more secure than getting things on a plane.

“I think the health of so many industries also impacts the well-being of my business. Like everything is interconnected, and I think that things just take longer because of sourcing. So I think there really is this trickle effect, or like, everything just feels so related. So I think no business or no industry is really totally immune to this.”

Kristin Thalheimer Bingham, co-owner of Dean’s Sweets in Portland, Maine

“So business in the last week has been pretty good. We have customers walking in, we have website orders, we have phone orders. It also doesn’t feel really normal, and comparing this past week to last year, for example, we are at about 50% of normal.

The storefront of Dean's Sweets in downtown Portland, ME. (Courtesy of Dean's Sweets)
The storefront of Dean’s Sweets in downtown Portland, Maine. (Courtesy of Dean’s Sweets)

“We have been considered essential because we’re a food supplier. When the pandemic hit in March, we did curbside. So we didn’t have any walk-in traffic, but our website orders just went through the roof. So I think investing in our website now is really something that will be helpful for us.

“When I’m working at our downtown Portland location, I do feel like things are coming back. So I see a lot more people walking by the store. I see a lot more people coming into the store. So things feel like they’re coming back to life a little bit right now.”

Gary Merriman, owner of the Fish Hawk in Atlanta

“We’ve gotten a lot of foot traffic. The store’s been very busy. We are limiting the number of people that can come in, and require a mask, and we have a hand-sanitizing station outside before you enter. Rods have been one of the toughest things to get. One, the demand is high, but also the supply’s very low. A lot of my manufacturers are U.S.-made rods [in] Washington state, Wisconsin. And so you can imagine, you know, they were going through, you know, a shutdown.

“You just never have seen so many people want to go fishing. Families were taking their kids. They needed something to do, and outdoors was the ticket.

“Our business was actually better than it would have been last year. So I don’t know if that’s sustainable. I just hope it levels off to a normal level and doesn’t go below that. I know that’s a wordy answer.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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