On COVID-19 for Small Businesses
As of Tuesday, March 17th (which is today) we have closed our brick and mortar shops, which is sort of wild to think about. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much while also thinking about it basically all the time. Frying an egg? Thinking about blog posts. In the shower? Thinking about shipping things. Laying awake in bed at 2 in the morning? Thinking about our staff work schedule and shifts floating around in the air.
What a time to be alive. We are completely grateful for the health that we have, and we know this virus going around is no light matter. We are grateful for the measures Canada and Ontario and the city of Toronto have taken, and we know this is all in an effort to keep everyone safe.
We know this, and we can and do appreciate this. And we also want to keep our business on its own ventilator, little puffs of online orders, with enough revenue to continue paying our staff until things are back to normal—and it seems like the way things are going, normal may not return for a few months on the inside. When small businesses are worried about things, let me tell you there is no stress like thinking about the people who work for you and what the best moves are to keep everyone together for as long as you can.
It’s a scary time for us, and as I scroll through the news and through our social media feeds, I see everyone applauding these enormous companies like Facebook or NBA millionaire owners who are paying out their concession workers’ wages while they’re closed, big organizations that have pandemic pay or government funding, but we can’t do that: our pockets are not deep and mostly full of lint and loose change.
People tell us to wait and see what the government’s relief measures will be, and it’s tough to just relax and wait. The current measures are without teeth for us: lifting the noise restriction in Toronto so shops can receive deliveries at all hours, some sort of “substantial contingency fund,” a task force that’s about to do some consultations. We’re okay right now but what about next week? in two weeks? Four weeks? Six weeks? Twelve? We need to pay our staff, pay our rent, pay our hydro bills. We need Canada Post rates for small businesses to drop substantially. We need rent or loan moratoriums. We cannot pay out to staff what is literally not in our bank accounts. And we also cannot pay out to staff if our business goes under totally, so what are the right decisions to help us weather this storm for as long as it might last? We are circling the wagons and we’re hunkering down.
So we’re trucking along. Last night we had a plumbing emergency in our old Victorian house and I thought Jon was going to have a hernia.
With schools closed Caleb and Naomi are with us, and we’re trying to balance things like music practice in an empty shop and riding their bikes in the lane way behind the studio shop (“normal” shop kid life). I see all these mamas who are doing amazing homeschooling things with their kids, organized worksheets and craft activities and trips to the park and baking cookies. My kids are eating chicken fingers while Jon and I are packing up orders, writing insane and completely surreal email newsletters, counting inventory, sending out emails and trying to figure out the next few days. Every time the kids come near me/fight between themselves/break something I threaten Caleb with math worksheets to buy myself some social distancing for another 20 minutes. Jon is coming home with all these weird groceries, telling me it’s all they have, so the kids are drinking goat milk and eating brown rice tomato basil Triscuits.
Jon had originally put a moratorium on bubble tea for the foreseeable future, but if there was ever a time for an emergency bubble tea for unhinged Asian parent small business owners getting unhingier by the hour, this would be it. All sorts of industries are being decimated: tourism, the wedding industry, restaurants and bars, theatres, doggie daycares, and if we’re going to participate in keeping one industry alive, it’s going to be the bubble tea one.