Death, imminent death … and awakening? Local businesses reflect on the year that was and the year to come
By Anthony Solis Sierra and Mira Tarabeine
[Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of profiles examining the pandemic’s toll on local businesses.]
The pandemic has forever changed the local business landscape.
Some businesses are gone for good. Others have clung to it, but the future remains uncertain. Still others have found new ways of doing business that could survive the pandemic. Some companies even got started during the pandemic.
In the profiles below, we take a look at one business that closed and two that survived. We’re also looking at a non-profit that came back from the brothel.
Eagle Rock Public House: “The pandemic has been a death blow.”
Before the pandemic, things were going better for Ting Su and Jeremy Raub, the married owners of Eagle Rock Public House, a bustling restaurant they opened in 2014.
“We had a really great restaurant that we were very proud of,” said Su. “We really aimed to give people a great experience when they were there. Our service team was just super nice.
Su said she understood why people were reluctant to leave their homes during the pandemic, even for a meal. But when the economy shut down, the impact on income was immediate.
The restaurant, which had partnered with local farmers and community members, stayed in business by selling boxes of produce and modifying their menu so that the quality of the food met the demands of delivery. a lot of our food doesn’t travel very well, ”Su said.
The restaurant also released a federal Paycheque Protection Program ready to help pay staff. But as the months of closure dragged on, it became increasingly difficult to maintain a full-time staff. Su started telling her employees to sign up for grant opportunities she had heard about for people in the restaurant industry.
In November, staying open was no longer an option. “The pandemic has been a death blow,” Su said.
Su isn’t just concerned with her own business, but what is lost when small businesses start to shut down.
“We have lived in Glassell Park for almost 20 years at this point,” she said. “And so for us, it’s like it’s at home.”
“It’s heartbreaking for me to see so many small businesses shutting down like in northeast Los Angeles – and it’s kinda terrifying because you don’t know what’s going to come in its place,” he said. she declared. “I really hope it’s not a whole bunch of chains.”
The Stronghold Climbing Gym: “The transition to business will take time.”
With the exception of one month in summer, The Stronghold climbing room at Lincoln Heights was closed from March 2020 to March 15, 2021, when it reopened at 10% capacity.
“It’s really difficult to have been completely closed, [but] we don’t really have outdoor possibilities, ”said Kate Mullen, Stronghold co-owner with Peter Steadman.
Mullen and Steadman were successful in preventing the company’s bankruptcy by applying for and receiving a loan under the Federal Paycheck Protection Program and spending their own money to meet the company’s expenses.
Currently, they expect a second federal loan to be made. They also plan to open at 25% capacity from March 31. “The transition to business will take time,” said Mullen.
Meanwhile, owners are concerned that guests will feel safe enough to return to any gym, and hope that when they return they will be attending small gyms like Stronghold.
“I would ask everyone in northeast Los Angeles to really consider trying to give all the money they can spend to small businesses,” Mullen said.
Johnny’s Bar: “I know more about CDC guidelines than cocktails.”
Since the initial closure of bars and other businesses in March 2020, Johnny’s Bar pub in Highland Park has reopened five times, each time adapting to new health guidelines, said Johanna Cole, bar manager.
At this point, Cole said, “I know more about CDC guidelines than I do about cocktails.”
Eventually, bars were allowed to sell take-out alcohol (along with food orders), which resulted in regular orders, but didn’t bring in much new business.
“When I sell take-out drinks, I don’t see anyone new. I don’t meet anyone. They are all my regulars, ”Cole said, adding that“ the regulars ”are what kept Johnny’s Bar in business during this time.
Cole said the bar’s goal now is to hang on until the pandemic is over.
“We would like to keep some of that old school vibe, and that’s what we’re hoping to do with Johnny’s,” she said. “Hang in there, keep the lights on.”
Bob Baker Marionette Theater: “Puppets go wild in an empty theater.”
The legendary Bob Baker Puppet Theater, established in Los Angeles in 1963, had been in its new location in Highland Park for only four months when the pandemic forced it to close in March 2020.
The closure was a blow to the theater.
“It’s a business that never existed as a digital society and was never designed to be experienced on a screen or in any way other than going to a show, having a puppet sitting on it. your knees, drop your hat and perform straight in front of you, ”said Molly Cox, director of communications for the theater. “It was very centered on the wonder of discovering this place, of going through the doors and being transformed.”
Despite innovations including road shows, Zoom shows and an online store, the theater was soon earning $ 30,000 per month and was barely able to cover operating expenses, rent and payroll.
Salvation came through fundraising. Bob Baker, which is organized as a non-profit organization, has set a goal of raising $ 365,000 for one year, eventually to over $ 400,000.
Cox said the donations were affirmations “from all who have been touched by theater in the past 63 years.”
The theater currently hosts in-person events, like the peek-a-boo walk which allows groups of up to six people to be guided by lights and sound signals through a performance in which the puppets are sort of going wild. . an empty theater, ”Cox said.
Anthony Solis Sierra and Mira Tarabeine, juniors at Occidental College, participate in the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, a collaboration between Boulevard Sentinel and the Occidental Campus newspaper.
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