‘But in this environment, it’s not sustainable to keep the business open…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) The owner of a small music store in Hastings, Michigan has been forced to permanently close his shop due to the state’s continued economic shutdown.
Steve Walker opened Walker Music & Textile Company 11 years ago with his family. But over the last few months, he’s watched the business he created and the dreams he had for it slowly die.
“This is my dream. Shutting it down. Closing out this phase of my life,” Walker said during an interview with WXMI-TV. “It won’t be a retail shop anymore and it won’t be an inviting environment for kids to come and be loved and to learn music.”
Millions of other small businesses around the country are in the same position. More than 7.5 million entrepreneurs told Main Street America that they’re running the risk of permanent closure over the next five months if the states drag out the reopening process. And although many of these small businesses qualify for aid from the federal government, it often isn’t enough.
Walker said he applied for unemployment and several grants through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, but each time he was either ignored or denied.
“There was only $32,800 grants for Barry County in total,” he said. “Of that $32,800, five businesses were the recipient of that money.”
Even if he had received additional aid, Walker said it wouldn’t have helped his financial situation much, since the shutdowns have continued and the bills are still piling up.
“I don’t want a stupid handout from the government,” he said. “I want my hands untied so I can work.”
Stephanie Luther, the owner of a small business in Wilmington, North Carolina, said she wasn’t eligible for certain aid, either, because her store only employs two people.
Luther didn’t “want to go further into debt” given the uncertainty this shutdown has created. And that left her with one other option: She could shut down her business, The Bump & Beyond, just five years after it opened.
“I don’t ever want to be a small business owner again after this,” Luther told WWAY-3. “Having to close a business that you have put your entire heart and soul into for the last five years is just insane.”
North Carolina officials have asked Gov. Roy Cooper to consider reopening the state as soon as possible to help struggling small businesses, but Luther is skeptical that Cooper will be willing to budge.
“I don’t see how this is going to get solved any time soon,” Luther said. “There’s no simple answer here. There’s none.”
Restaurants have been hit hard by this shutdown, too, despite the fact that most have been allowed to continue operating on a to-go basis.
Take-out, however, simply does not create enough revenue, according to the owner of Caveman Burgers, a Phoenix restaurant that permanently closed its doors late last month.
“I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m disappointed. I’m especially sad for the employees that work for me who are going to be losing their jobs as well. It’s been really special to create jobs for people and employ them, see their lives change and grow,” the owner said in a video announcing the business’s closure. “But in this environment, it’s not sustainable to keep the business open.”
Walker said state governments should have treated all businesses the same instead of separating them into vague “nonessential” or “essential” categories.
“I’ve been sitting here for 60 days watching my neighbors do business day in and day out,” Walker said. “They aren’t thriving but they are surviving. There’s no reason in hell I couldn’t have done the same thing. None. And that’s what makes me angry.”