Dearest EXPLORE Reader,
As I write this, we’re on the first days of our “shelter in place” orders. Local small business has paused almost entirely, fear has gripped every corner of the County, and it’s like we’re watching a slowly unfolding disaster movie.
Basically, there’s a helluva lot of stress these days.
I’ll spare you my own thoughts regarding the virus, the response to it, the political aspects, etc. My opinion doesn’t really matter. That said, I think there’s going to be a lot of lessons learned from this particular March 2020 that will be remembered for generations.
And rightfully so. It’s like some sort of weird dream.
I’ve started and stopped this letter a few times today and I can’t seem to decide where to go with anything. I think if I were honest, I just don’t want to TALK about all this nonsense anymore. Much like you, it’s consumed every minute of my day up to and including my dreams. I’m fatigued with the whole conversation. And heck, by the time this article finds its way to you, 100 things will have changed anyway.
And I guess I’m just good ol’ fashioned scared.
Not of the virus itself really as the mortality rate is exponentially low, but of the fallout. This is going to crush small business owners and already is. I was talking with a wealthy friend that owns a sizeable company with several hundred workers. He was very distraught as his employees were all at home not getting paid. He was genuinely worried about them. However, he was positive in his thinking that there was going to come sort of “stimulus” package out of Washington and he exclaimed that he could shortly put them on “hiatus” (and pay them) instead of simply letting them all go. Then, he said “By early summer, things will be normal again and this all be a distant memory.”
All of this is mostly true I suppose. For HIM. But let’s be real – his company is probably sitting on hundreds of millions in the bank as “reserve” money, and a 2 or 3 month pause in production would eat into that reserve but would never get dangerously close to bottoming it out. So he’ll enjoy a bit of a vacation, his employees will as well, and then – voila! – back to normal.
But let’s look at small business. You run a small retail shop here in town and have been here for 10 years. You’ve got good loyal customers, you make your rent every month, and you make a fun little profit that subsidizes your family a little. But then you run into March of 2020. You are ordered to close immediately. All your revenues stop. You do not have millions in reserves in the bank, much less a couple thousand dollars.
Then your very expensive rent is due.
Then your utility bills come in.
Your employees must be let go.
Sales tax for the last quarter are due.
And then the news tells you that this could go on until summer. You can’t raid your family checking account for capital as it must go to your mortgage and food and utilities. Your kids are home all day now so your grocery bill just ballooned. And you know that in 30 more days, your rent is due again for your business that is not open and has zero revenues.
Not a pretty picture is it?
I suppose that many of you work for larger companies and commute to San Antonio and this is all a very unfortunate situation with the virus, but you sleep ok knowing that the doors will reopen on your job and you are still being paid in the interim. But for many of us out there, this is going to have lasting and profound impacts on the small businesses that make our area the reason you chose to live here. They provide the character and the charm to the city itself and the places that you enjoy having a quiet dinner on Saturday night and window shopping on pretty Saturday afternoons. The coffee shop where you see friends, and the friendly owners that help you with décor purchases for your home.
The Mazal family that owns Little Gretel are in a panic.
Cindy and Sylvia that own Boerne Farmhouse just closed temporarily with tears in their eyes.
Reagan who owns Pearl Antler just advertised that if you see a clothing item on her website, she’ll drive it to your house.
Amy from From Scratch Farm is also selling her handmade soaps by delivering them to you.
And yours truly is enjoying sleepless nights trying to figure out how to keep clients advertising their businesses…that aren’t open right now.
What’s my point with all of my whining? Simply that you moved to the area for particular reasons. Sure, the schools are great and it’s low crime and it’s very pretty. It’s also because Kendall County has a lot of charm and character and the folks that run those charming small businesses are going to need you big time at the end of this saga.
And we’re going to lose a bunch of them. It’s already happening. I hate that more than you know, but it’s a fact. When we get hit with a crisis, we inevitably rally behind and scream our support for our local law enforcement, teachers, nurses, and first responders. As we should.
But this crisis is going to come with a different cost. If the plan to contain things works as planned, there should be little crime and destruction and loss of life. If it goes the way that is hoped, we’re all going to have a long break from our normal routines, and then the OPEN light is going to kick back on and we’ll begin to put this behind us.
And those that are going to need that boost, those high-fives, and those DOLLARS are going to be your good ol’ Mom and Pop restaurants, retail, coffee shops, and cafes that you have enjoyed countless times. They’ll need a tidal wave of revenue to dig out of the crushing credit card debt they will have accumulated, the sleepless nights, the missed payments, and the back-rent that is owed.
So let’s do this thing, ok? We’ll follow the rules, stay home, spend some extra time with the kids, catch up on some chores, and then reemerge back into the world. But do me a favor will you? When this is over, make a little budget to shop local. Even if it’s just to buy a gift card. Of all the groups in our community that is going to need some love, it’s going to be the little guys in the business world.
Welcome to April. May we never speak of March 2020 ever again. I hope you find some solace in the quiet time you’re enjoying, may you EXPLORE and find the beauty in your family, and may you help all of those in your community that are going to need the help soon.
Benjamin D. Schooley