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As a microbusiness, surviving the pandemic means taking it one day at a time

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Lydia Clarke, owner of DTLA Cheese, wears a face mask and holds two wedges of cheese.

Lydia Clarke owns DTLA Cheese in downtown Los Angeles. Nothing is easy for the business right now, she says. “It's a constant pivot.” Photo courtesy Lydia Clarke

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Lydia Clarke just celebrated eight years at her second cheese shop, DTLA Cheese, in downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market. That’s a huge milestone, given the tumultuous last 22 months for her and her microbusiness.

“I don’t feel like we’re still, like, totally in the clear,” Clarke said. “But it does feel so good that I get to wake up and do this every day.”

During the pandemic, Clarke has had to reduce her staff, raise prices on her cheese products and cut her own pay. She continues to pivot her business in as many ways as she can to survive. With COVID-19 safety measures, for example, Clarke has not been able to bring back cheese tastings from behind the counter — something she really enjoyed doing.

“I think you just do it day by day,” she said. “And if I look to the future, it feels terrifying of like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is going to happen?’”

Clarke has also had to face global supply chain challenges, making it difficult to plan the purchasing and management of her short-shelf-life products.

“Supply chains are all messed up, even like napkins and bags that we use and cheese paper,” she said. “Not even just what we actually are selling, but even the things to put it in that thing that goes out the door.”

She said nothing is easy right now. “It’s a constant pivot.”

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