For Texas small businesses, the storm’s yet another trial

Samantha Fields Feb 23, 2021
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The freeze has imposed a major setback on Texas businesses that depend on farming. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

For Texas small businesses, the storm’s yet another trial

Samantha Fields Feb 23, 2021
Heard on:
The freeze has imposed a major setback on Texas businesses that depend on farming. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
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The power is finally back on, for the most part, in Texas.

But a lot of people still don’t have running water or have to boil it for drinking and cooking. People are also dealing with burst pipes and water damage.

Many of the state’s small businesses are struggling with the same conditions.

This time of year is usually when everything starts to bloom at Gretchen O’Neil’s flower farm in Manor, Texas. “It is supposed to be spring here. It is supposed to be warm,” O’Neil said.

So when O’Neil heard the forecast for snow and freezing temperatures last week, she did everything she could to save the flowers in her greenhouses. “I spent about $4,000 and brought in a generator, kerosene heaters, extra row cover,” she said.

That saved most of those flowers. But the ones outside? In the fields? Many were damaged or destroyed. And it happened during Valentine’s week — a huge revenue period for O’Neil.

The timing was terrible for Ashley Fric, too. She owns Colleen’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Austin. “It takes a lot of resources and funds to prepare for those big days,” she said.

Instead of letting food go to waste, Fric said Colleen’s partnered with a local nonprofit and other restaurants. “We were able to feed different shelters around town…. It’s hard to be focused on your business when you’re also delivering food to people that have absolutely nothing,” she said.

Many Texans have stepped up to help struggling businesses, too.  

Becky Hume lost almost all of her spring crop at Vrdnt Farm in Bastrop. Which means for the next month at least, she won’t be able to deliver the shares of vegetables that her community supported agriculture members had paid for.  

But when Hume emailed to tell them that, “so many of them, you know, understood the problem that I had, you know, just such a steep fall of revenue that they have stepped up and said, ‘Yes, we want to help you get across this.’”

Enough people, Hume said, that she can afford to keep all her staff. And replant. 

Things like radishes and arugula that should, with a little luck, be ready in about a month. 

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