Local businesses talk resilience

Kelley Cramer, left, and Debi Johnson decorate a Christmas tree in the display window of Hodgins Drug and Hobby in downtown Moscow.

Several Moscow businesses have survived the COVID-19 pandemic because of their own ingenuity, government assistance and the support of the community.

That was one of the main takeaways when two representatives of the Small Business Administration traveled to Moscow to talk to local business owners.

Kerrie Hurd, SBA District Director, and Joel Nania, SBA Spokane branch manager, visited several businesses to promote Small Business Saturday and to hear first-hand accounts of how small businesses navigated pandemic-related challenges.

Tracy Peck, of Peck’s Shoe Clinic, told Hurd and Nania that the shoe-repair business thrived during the pandemic thanks to Payment Protection Program loans and by taking the extra effort to meet customer needs.

Last year, when customers could not go inside, owner Todd Peck posted his cell phone number on the business door. Customers could call and schedule an appointment for him to visit them at their homes to repair their shoes.

Now, like many businesses, they are dealing with a shortage of supplies. The Pecks spend much of their time on the phone with their suppliers and online searching for products to meet their customers’ needs.

Fortunately for their business, it is clear that customers are willing to spend their money right now, Tracy Peck said.

“People want to buy things,” she said.

Shelley Stone, owner of The Yarn Underground, laid off seven workers and moved part of her business online when the pandemic struck.

Since then, she has been able to hire workers again and has taken in more revenue than any year before. She did not take Payment Protection Program loans.

Todd Broadman, a business adviser with the Small Business Development Center, also joined Monday’s tour. As someone who consults small business owners, Broadman said the three main challenges they face now are inflation, getting supplies and hiring employees.

He said many workers, particularly young workers, feel they are not getting compensated fairly enough, especially if they have to work in an environment that may risk their health during the pandemic.

Additionally, many low-wage jobs do not offer health benefits, he said. Parents also struggle to find daycares to watch their children when they work.

One World Cafe owners Sara Beth Pritchett and Brandy Sullivan managed to expand their business during the pandemic by taking over the adjoining space that belonged most recently to the restaurant Mock Orange.

Sullivan said last year was “a strange time” to take on more rent and payroll expenses with the expansion, but they were optimistic that it would be successful. One World also added outdoor seating to accommodate customers.

They received government funds which helped them keep their staff. They currently have about 20 staff members and sales are picking up, Sullivan said.

Hurd said these small Moscow businesses displayed their resilience during the pamendic. She noted how they each tackled their challenges differently, like Ron Peck posting his phone number on the door or One World setting up outdoor seating.

She said those who took financial assistance distributed by the SBA benefited from those funds, but much of the credit belongs to the Moscow community and the business owners’ own hard work.

“These owners would not have survived if not for their willingness to serve customers,” she said.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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