AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE – Last week The Slider Café and Santo Coyote closed. Open are COA, Nell Thorn, Oyster & Thistle and Seeds. Once again the La Conner Tavern is open Fridays. The list of closed eateries is, sadly, much longer. – Photo by Ken Stern
A few First Street business April snapshots
By Mel Damski
La Conner businesses have been severely challenged by the Covid-19 virus effect on the overall economy, but the Town is working to create new ways to reach out to potential customers.
It’s Tulip Time in Skagit so the timing could not have been worse for the financial effects of the pandemic, forcing most local business to close their doors. Mayor Ramon Hayes estimates that the damage is in the millions of dollars.
However, the Town is supporting the development of a new website, ShopLaConner.com, that will allow customers to continue shopping local and supporting their neighbors’ businesses.
Hayes owns Trumpeter Jewelry Store and so he is being challenged as a town leader as well as a businessman. “It’s exceedingly unfortunate because its Tulip season and people are losing millions,” said the Mayor. “For me as a shop owner, it has a major impact. But as dramatic and hurtful as it is, there are some glimmers of hope, forcing me to step up my game”.
Spearheaded by Shirley Makala and Brent McElroy, the online presence is going to have long term advantages for local shop owners and residents who want to shop locally. The pair created the La Conner Guitar Festival, which has been a tremendous hit in its first two years. It has been postponed this season from April until, hopefully, July.
Makala and McElroy also are contributing to a new Facebook page that the town has set up to connect with customers who might not be comfortable leaving home right now.
For Rosi Jansen, who owns Fine Feathered Friends with husband Wes, this is the time of year when people are not just buying birdseed, but also choosing from their beautiful assortment of birdfeeders and even beehives. They are building an online presence and customers, having paid online or with an iPhone app, can have home deliveries or stop by the store where Rosi or Wes, wearing gloves, will meet them out front.
They have a growing presence on Facebook and they are adapting to new challenges with new technologies.
Mari White-Bucy is not so fortunate as she is a massage therapist. She and her husband Mike also have a charter boat business that is shut down. Yet she remains upbeat, expressing her gratitude to landlord Jack Estep who has scaled back rent to many business owners in town to 16 per cent. Mari and her 16-year-old daughter Olivia have been busy watering outdoor planters for neighboring businesses that are closed and she is advertising open businesses in town on her dockside window.
Artist Tim Wistrom can be seen painting away through the window to his studio. He is continuing to sell his popular work online and to express his gratitude, he has set up a Quick Draw contest online with the proceeds going to the Red Cross. “I’m cranking, painting more than ever,” said Wistrom as he sat at his easel with a work in progress in his storefront surrounded by his iconic paintings that are sold to people near and far.
“Not just La Conner, but the entire Skagit County needs to be intentional as to how to recover from this tragedy”, said Hayes. “We have some of the finest products made right here in Skagit County that need to marketed effectively to the world.”
Business owners, get online now and apply for federal funds now. All area businesses, self-employed persons and nonprofits are eligible.
The Weekly News has already applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan. Run by the Small Business Administration, it provides up to $10,000 and becomes a grant: It does not have to be repaid when program requirments are met.
The SBA webpage reads: “In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. “This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.”
It took 15 minutes to apply. Needed are the legal business name, your EIN, Employer Identification Number, and your gross income and Cost of Goods Sold, COGS, for Jan. 31, 2019-Jan. 31, 2020. All website urls are below.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a second loan program from the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. It is a nearly $350-billion program intended to provide American small businesses with eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans.
This loan has a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%.
SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. The loan covers expenses from Feb. 15-June 30, 2020. There is no cost to apply.
Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.
Apply through banks authorized to handle SBA loans. The website listed hundreds of nearby branches.
Download a four page form: There are two pages to fill out and two pages of instructions and conditions. Use Adobe Reader to type answers and for initials and signatures. It took 25 minutes to fill out. Needed are the business’ legal name, EIN and average monthly payroll numbers.