Local small businesses, self-employed cope with shutdowns and restrictions
By BRITTANY FHOLER
As more and more counties and cities in Texas implement shelter in place orders, some businesses have been either required to close or modify the way they operate.
This is a scary and uncertain time for many small business owners and other self-employed, including those who work at businesses that don’t fall under the list of essential businesses.
When Governor Greg Abbott issued his declaration limiting gatherings to no more than 10, and closing gyms and tanning salons, some interpreted that to also include other nail and hair salons.
The women at Refresh Spa and Salon, on Avenue D, made the decision to close their doors to the public effective Saturday, March 21.
Beth Galick, a nail technician at Refresh, said that there had initially been conflicting information over whether the salon actually was required to close but ultimately, the decision came down to keeping clients and staff safe.
“Because of the types of jobs that we do, where we’re touching people constantly, it was virtually impossible to practice social distancing,” Galick said. “I have kids at home, my in-laws are 80 years old, and I didn’t want to be a carrier giving it to one of my clients, either on accident.”
The nail technicians and hair stylists and others who work from Refresh pay to rent out their space at the salon and earn their money through their nail and hair clients. With the closing of the salon, the nail technicians and hair stylists who work out of the salon are effectively not working and not earning any money. Galick shared that the salon owner, Sharon Tabor, is very understanding and is not charging them booth rent during this time period, which is a comfort.
“Really, we have absolutely no money,” Galick said. “We make zero, until maybe we get the stimulus money, if that ever comes.”
Galick said she does have a part-time side job but that it does not provide her the level of income she was making as a nail technician.
Unlike other professions when someone is laid off or unable to work, Galick said she is not able to file for unemployment due to being self-employed.
The United States Senate passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package on Wednesday and sent it to the House of Representatives for a vote today. Within that package, lawmakers would expand unemployment benefits for furloughed workers, allowing them to receive whatever amount states typically provide for unemployment, plus an additional $600 per week. This would also include freelancers, gig workers and self-employed workers who previously didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits, according the Associated Press. The package also includes a $367 billion program to help small businesses pay their employees while those employees are unable to work.
While she is currently not working, Galick said she is focused on helping her daughter do her schoolwork and working on her side business, as well as reading more and doing more housework.
“It is really weird being home and not going to work every day,” Galick said. “It’s only been a few days too. I mean, I still have a week and a half left to go, if not longer, if it gets extended, but it is a little strange because I’ve been working since I was 17 or 18 years old working full-time, so this was my first non-scheduled time off for this long period of time, and it is a little stressful, and you kind of wonder about how long are we going to be out of work and how am I going to pay my bills, so that part is a little stressful but I just try to stay positive and take it one day at a time.”
Galick said she understands how hard it is for self-employed people faced with staying home to flatten the curve versus staying open and going to work.
“You want to do what’s right for the community; you want to not be that person that risks spreading the virus, and because our area until today didn’t even have a confirmed person, I can understand the conflict of wanting to close so that they don’t possibly get sick or spread it, but then they also need to make money and survive and pay their bills and keep their business open,” Galick said. “I do understand that, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make but this is such a strange, crazy thing happening that we’ve never really seen before. Really, it’s more about everybody than just me. I just felt that the public’s health and my health was a little bit more important. So hopefully by people not going to work, it can contain it a little faster so that way we can get back to normal quicker.”
Restaurants have been forced to switch to take-out/pick-up orders only, as their dining rooms have been closed down. Some Copperas Cove restaurants have closed their doors indefinitely as a result, like Giovanni’s and El Tapatio due to lack of business, as more and more people stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out.
In the Cove Terrace Shopping Center, the Healthy Hub is still open and serving meal-replacement shakes and energizing teas to its customers.
“Our philosophy is that everybody deserves to have a healthy and positive meal that also doesn’t break the bank and also tastes delicious,” said Jessie Jonasson, who works at the Healthy Hub. In addition to delicious drinks, the Healthy Hub also offers workout classes, including Cardio Drumming using workout balls, buckets and drumsticks.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Healthy Hub has had to switch to curbside/to-go orders for their drinks, as well as cancelling all of their classes.
Jonasson said she’s considering finding a way for people to work out from home by offering classes online. Participants would come in to pick up their workout balls and buckets (sanitized prior to use) for cardio drumming, take them home and then log in online to follow Jonasson as she works out at her own home.
“It’s a really big thing to people,” Jonasson said about the workouts. “It’s kind of like their thing, so I feel like removing it has hindered a lot of people or upset them. You know, they’re already locked away in their houses, a lot of them.”
Jonasson said that as a business, they’ve had to put themselves out there more during this time.
“We’ve always been big in the community, but we’ve had to be bigger even more because as a small business, it’s hard enough to survive, let alone when you’re limited so we’ve just made sure that our voice is really, really big,” Jonasson said. “We post wherever we can, we let people know that we’ll help them in whichever way we can.”
The Healthy Hub started a Pay It Forward initiative last weekend as a way to help brighten the days of healthcare professionals and others dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
“We decided that we wanted to be able to help the community,” Jonasson said.
Customers are asked to donate when they place their order, with the donations going towards the cost of a drink to be delivered to local clinics or other facilities.
Jonasson said she made the first delivery on Monday, delivering 33 teas to the Copperas Cove Fire Department’s Central Station and to the Family Medicine Clinic. She made another delivery on Wednesday to Fort Hood and a local clinic.
As of press time, $294 had been raised for the Pay It Forward Initiative.
If people are interested in donating, they can donate via cash or card at the Healthy Hub, via PayPal to PayPal.Me/TheHealthyHub, or by calling 254-368-9609.