I had an opportunity to sit down and discuss what it was like to be a small business owner during this chaotic time. I asked an owner a couple of questions that had been weighing on my mind and that I had been curious about. In order to keep the business and the business owner's privacy, I will not be stating the name of the company or the owners.
This is a small company that has been in the same family for over 100 years. This company has been involved with multiple different aspects of the business world. They have investments in hotels, virtual reality, a market and eatery, and were in the C-store (or gas station) business for two generations.
What is the background of the company? (Just give broad answers or background such as the state you are located in, the size of the company, how long you have been open, etc)
"Our investments are very diverse currently and have some all over the country, Multifamily, hotels, strip centers, truck oil lube, and run a Market and Eatery. In the first go-around with our past business, we were open for just shy of 100 years in the c-store business. When we sold in 2012 we started a new business and changed the name a few years back. In the c-store business, we had operations in IN and OH, and we had around 1000 employees. Currently, we operate with about 10 people in the office and about 40 part-time and full-time employees in-store."
How many locations do you have with this company? Are you looking to expand?
"We currently have one market and eatery operating but have two other locations that we are working on permits and would like to be at five locations in the next four years. We also have various other investments that we are working on and with other companies."
Is this company in a small town? Do you think that business would have been more heavily affected if the business had been in a bigger city such as New York or Atlanta?
"Yes, we are based out of a town in Indiana with a population of about 20,000, so I would consider it small. We have never operated anything in the larger cities like Atlanta or New York, so not sure fair for me to say but I would think they would have been impacted more than smaller towns especially with the rioting."
How heavily did the Coronavirus affect your business?
"We had to close our restaurant and our virtual reality shop, all of our tenants in the strip center wanted rent reductions and our occupancy drastically fell in our hotel and are still not even close to where they need to be. The Market side did okay; one thing that helped is we did home delivery and have a drive up."
Did the community support your local businesses?
"Yes, our community was very supportive during this time."
What affected your business more, the Coronavirus, or the riots?
"We didn't have any Riots in the areas we do business, so COVID affected our business more for sure."
Did the pandemic/riots give you a different perspective or make you think differently about certain aspects of business?
"Yes, regarding the pandemic, it has made us look at how we clean the store and how we interact with people. Even though we thoroughly clean multiple times a day, the way we clean and what we clean with needed to be looked at and made sure that they are effective because our customers are our priority. We also have been looking at how to make our location more touch-free, like auto doors and no doors on RR and things like that."
Was it hard to enforce or come up with rules and policies regarding the pandemic/rioting? What were some of the policies or rules that your company put into place?
"We have implemented temperature checks, require our employees to wear masks and gloves. We shut down our office for a while and had zoom meetings, we opened the office back up June 1st and just asked that everyone to social distance."
What was the most challenging part of this time?
"Keeping the doors open and getting people to work."
How were your employees during this time? Were they worried? Did employment become an issue?
"Our employees were stressed and worn down I think, and employment is definitely an issue. We pay a competitive rate and we are well above minimum wage, but people could get a lot more money on unemployment. A lot of the employees that we had to lay off had no interest coming back at least until the government quits giving them the extra money, this is a major issue in the retail business currently."