Small Business Spotlight
We’re spotlighting some of the small businesses throughout Illinois, struggling in the wake of COVID-19, that are hopeful they can reopen with appropriate social distancing in May.
J. Bacher Fine Jewelry
Business Type: Fine Jewelry Sales, Design, Manufacturing and Repair
Owner/Operator: Joe Bacher
Location: Harrisburg, IL
Years in Business: 16 Years at Current Location
Family Owned: Yes
Have you had to stop all operations, or have you been able to offer delivery or curbside pickup? Per the mandate, we are closed. There was no instruction for allowing delivery, curbside pickup, or appointments. Security and insurance coverage are also concerns which would need to be addressed.
Have you had to lay off or furlough staff? We have a staff of two and have been fortunate enough to be able to keep busy on maintenance projects but have no source of business revenue.
Are businesses that offer the same or similar services considered essential and allowed to operate while your business is not? Yes. Any 'big box' store with a jewelry department continues to sell jewelry. The pawnshop next door continues to sell jewelry and offer jewelry services. We service 25 - 30 customers per day, far fewer than either of the above-mentioned examples. How is it that we are a bigger threat to the health and welfare of the community? Simply put, this doesn’t make sense.
What has been your biggest struggle? No revenue. Playing by the rules when others aren’t.
Are there any ways you’ve seen the community rally around your business? Other than support on social media, no. But, then, how are people supposed to rally when we're closed, and they're not supposed to congregate?
Is there anything else you want to share? We live, and we operate our small business in a small, rural area, where 'social distancing' is a way of life. In the jewelry business, we are constantly cleaning our showcases and work areas. We could be considered to be clean freaks.
I understand that we don’t sell product which is ‘necessary’ for day-to-day life. The same could be said for vehicles – do we really need anything other than basic transportation? Small businesses, like ours, drive the local economy. We work here, live here and spend here.
We continue to do our best to protect our customers and staff. We have a state-of-the-art security system to physically protect against crime. Why wouldn’t we also be interested in their health security? Our smaller community is different in vast ways from the more densely populated areas of the state. I don’t have ‘the’ answer to fix this. But, I know that it’s not a single solution to fit every situation either.
Garden’s Gate Garden Center and Landscaping Incorporated
Business Type: Garden Center and Landscaping
Owner/Operator: Stephanie Stacy & Dave Stacy
Location: Ottawa, IL
Years in Business: 10
Family Owned: Yes
Have you had to stop all operations, or have you been able to offer delivery or curbside pickup? Our garden center is offering curbside pickup and delivery, as well as individual appointments with customers to visit the garden center. We are able to sell landscape materials and perform landscaping, but with May, our biggest month of the year, days away, we are very concerned that we may not be able to fully open, which will devastate our garden center sales and likely end up shutting us down.
Have you had to lay off or furlough staff? Yes, we have some staff that still have not returned to work since our normal winter layoff either due to lack of business or simply being too scared to return to work.
Are businesses that offer the same or similar services considered essential and allowed to operate while your business is not? Yes, most big box stores are still selling plants to customers.
What has been your biggest struggle? Trying to plan for May! The governor isn’t giving us any direction on where we will be in May. We have tens of thousands of plants growing for Mother’s Day, if we can’t allow customers on our site to shop, how are we going to sell them? The state needs to tell business owners what they are planning instead of dragging it out until the last minute.
Are there any ways you’ve seen the community rally around your business? Our community is amazing. We have customers almost daily, supporting us on social media and telling us they are buying from us to keep it local! Ottawa truly is one supportive community, and we are trying to pay it forward.
Is there anything else you want to share? Yes! Most of our product is outdoors, why can’t we be open if we utilize social distancing and precautions? Gardens, whether they be for food or flowers, are therapeutic and essential for moral. Trying to shut independent garden centers down for literally their biggest selling month of the year will cripple our industry. We don’t get a make-up month like other businesses for us it’s practically sell in May or don’t sell at all. There is no valid reason garden centers shouldn't be allowed to be open if most of their product is located outside, the number of guests indoors is limited based on square footage, and social distancing is used.