Rebuilding America: Business owners navigate uncertainty while eyeing re-opening
The economic impact of the COVID-19 virus has been harsh. A small business owner and a hotel housekeeper face different, but difficult challenges amid this pandemic. USA TODAY
FARMINGTON — Uncertainty continues to weigh on small business owners as they navigate state regulations to relaunch and reopen stores in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Mark Garcia has owned and operated Garcia & Co. Jewelers for 30 years in Farmington.
"When our showroom is closed, it's drastic difference in what people can do because people need to see, feel and touch our product before they buy it," he said.
The family-owned fine jewelry store closed in March and the pandemic hit during the lucrative time when people shop for engagements and anniversaries.
Garcia furloughed the five-member staff and implemented online retail and abbreviated store hours, mainly to answer calls from customers while the doors remain shut.
Recently, the business started curbside service after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the easing of some restrictions on May 13.
"We've had a few sales but nothing close to closing the gap," Garcia said about online transactions. He added that compared to last year, his business lost 70 percent in revenue in April and is edging toward a 60 percent loss for May.
If this decline continues into July, Garcia will have to take further action to stay afloat.
Tara Taylor operates the Studio Bake Shoppe inside Artifacts Gallery/Artifacts 302, the business her family owns in downtown Farmington.
The doors have been closed since March, but Taylor unlocks the bake shop on Saturday mornings, so customers can pick up cinnamon rolls, cookies or muffins ordered by telephone or on the Studio Bake Shoppe Facebook page.
"It's been working pretty good. It's a little bit of revenue versus none," she said.
Garcia and Taylor anticipate the time when their locations can reopen – despite being on opposite ends of the retail spectrum, both miss seeing customers, have implemented ways to keep patrons safe and want to move forward.
Both have been reviewing regulations for businesses from the state, but it feels like navigating an endless maze.
"Every time the mandates are updated, we try to adjust and see what we can do to be proactive and still be respectful of those mandates. In our business, it's been trying to sell online, calling customers and seeing if we can help them," Garcia said, adding that 95% of his business' cash flow comes from customers visiting the store.
Taylor said small businesses were hit first by closures, now the worry is compliance and enforcement of state regulations, which could lead customers to go elsewhere.
"It deters people from the small businesses because of what we now have to ask them. Yes, I want to open. Yes, I follow the rules but sometimes the rules seem a little excessive. I'll do it because I want to open my doors again and hopefully people will come," Taylor said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at email@example.com.
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