By Charles Bolinger Edwardsville Intelligencer, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) For some businesses, like salons, where human contact is part of the transaction, entrepreneurs are struggling to figure out how they will move forward.
National unemployment claims broke a recently as almost 3.3 million people filed for assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Illinois unemployment claims totaled 114,663 as of March 27, up more than 103,000 from the previous week.
Marion Gilson, who owns the Back Bar on North Main Street in Edwardsville, joined those ranks after she closed the bar on March 16. She opened the bar in early December 2018, in the back half of the old Laurie's space.
Gilson said she borrowed money from her father and sister to open the bar and she viewed its opening as a form of redemption in the wake of her mother's passing and losing a career in 2016 from which she expected to retire.
"I promised myself I wouldn't fail and now, it feels like I'm failing," she said with a few tears. "I don't have an income. Nothing. I have nothing," she said about her current plans. "I started this bar with nothing."
She had 10 people working for her.
"I'm hoping to get them all back," she said of her employees, most of whom attend college. "Some of them had other jobs."
Gilson thinks Gov. J.B. Pritzker should have taken a different approach to business closures.
"If it was up to me, I would have closed everything down, not pick and choose. I would like to think we're going to be open again in two weeks, but I don't think that's going to happen."
Stephanie Reinneck leased booth space as one of four hair stylists in Glen Carbon with an upscale clientele. She has worked in this field for 10 years. "About a week before we closed, I started noticing the drop-off," she said of her clients. "They just canceled; they were too afraid to come in." She closed on March 21 at 5 p.m. Like Gilson, she can't conduct virtual or online business.
Congress also passed a $2 trillion rescue package for employees, but word is, the funds won't be available until May, leaving a lot of folks in the lurch about their April rents, mortgages and other monthly payments. Reinneck hopes to be able to take advantage of the state's new small business grants or loan assistance programs unveiled recently.
"Before today, I didn't even qualify for unemployment because I was self-employed," she said. "I think I'm one of the lucky ones because my husband gets hazard pay from his job."
She said looking forward, if this happens again that there is more governmental orchestration and the reaction would be immediate.
"I don't like that somebody told me I couldn't work then decided not to give me any unemployment," she said.
Stephanie Manning owns The Pilates Barre, located off of Plum Street near Peel Pizza and Mike Shannon's Grill.
"In our business, we see clients one-on-one, semi-private and small group settings," said Manning. "We closed all of our classes, only seeing semi-private, or one-on-one clients, starting March 16. We closed our doors completely end-of-day on March 20. I currently employ nine people, including myself. This is an unprecedented time, for sure!"
She said despite being closed, they are trying to continue to teach online classes.
"The competition online is worldwide instead of local, so this comes with its own challenges," she said. "As of right now, we are planning to open on April 8 with one-on-one appointments. Then we will slowly add classes as government and healthcare officials say it is safe."
Manning is married with two children. Her husband has a job that is considered essential, so he is still able to work.
"As the owner of a business, my primary concern is to keep finding and building work for my eight teachers," she said. "I am not looking for part-time work, but I am brainstorming ways to continue working through online technology. It saddens me to put not only my business in this position, but the income and families of eight others!
"As an entrepreneur, you know you are taking a risk opening a business, but you don't think about the impact your business has on others until it is taken away."
Manning said she is hoping to continue to build her online business, so that when she returns to the studio, she has a more robust business platform. One place affected that most people in town might not think of immediately is the Edwardsville Children's Museum (ECM).
"Here at ECM, we are following suit with Illinois schools and Gov. Pritzker's stay-at-home order because we feel that the health of our community is of the utmost importance," said Abby Schwent, the museum's executive director.
The museum closed on March 17. "We feel strongly that joyful and experiential learning is needed during this time, so we are staying connected with our visitors through our social media (Facebook and Instagram) where we share tips and ideas for fun activities as well as our virtual story time," Schwent said.
"It is definitely hard to be closed for an extended period of time, especially as a non-profit, and we are taking a huge hit but we know that it's the right thing to do and a lot of other people are in this same situation," she said.
"I personally feel very sad that we've had to cancel so many field trips, birthday parties and events during what is generally one of our busiest times of year. It's way too quiet here at ECM and we miss our little visitors."
She said on the positive side, museum staff have used this downtime to work on the construction of new exhibits and give the museum a deep cleaning. She added that people can support ECM by visiting its website and donating or registering for summer camps and classes.
"Every one of our employees will still have a job with ECM when we re-open; we're just on a kind of pause right now," Schwent added.
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