Life was sweet for Nina Midgley before the COVID-19 outbreak.
She spent the last six years making chocolate and other assorted treats at her store in Bridgeville’s Collier Town Square. Then on March 17, due to the coronavirus, she was ordered to close My Favorite Sweet Shoppe.
While the business had online sales capability, before the pandemic they had fewer than a dozen online sales a year.
And now? “It’s all we have other than emailing or calling in an order,” says Midgely. “We aren’t built for e-commerce, so we got a crash course in it real fast.”
The company is staying afloat thanks in part to their custom care packages and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan Midgley was lucky enough to secure. That’s the $349 billion Small Business Administration (SBA) program that offers businesses 2.5 times their monthly payroll — as a forgiveness loan if it is spent accurately. Businesses that are getting it are screaming for joy while those who don’t are screaming for other reasons.
Midgely put 25 percent of the funds toward rent — her biggest expense — as allocated, and the rest to pay her eight-member, part-time staff through June. Some of her staff are making more money from unemployment due to the $600 per week additional funding from the government since the COVID-19 crisis.
One law firm’s story
For the Downtown law firm Vollen Anderson Long, LLC., applying for the hugely popular PPP loan was stressful to say the least. Partner Stephanie Anderson spent 10 hours entering information and re-entering it each time the site crashed on April 3, which was often. Her tenacity paid off; the firm was approved and received the forgiveness loan before the first round of SBA money ran out. They also received a $5,000 grant from the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL) funds.
“For a small business like us, these funds will make it possible for us to continue our practice, pay our employees and continue to serve our clients the very best we can during this extraordinary time,” says Anderson. “Without these funds, we were concerned we would not make it out to the other side of this. The stress relief is indescribable.”
All employees — four lawyers and one paralegal — are working remotely while court appearances are conducted via Zoom or telephone conference.
“In our line of work, the fit between client and lawyer is very important,” Anderson says. “Not being able to meet face-to-face has been a challenge, to be sure.”
A longtime successful furniture business
After nearly 26 years in business on the South Side and in the Strip, Perry and Lora Sigesmund had to shut the doors at both PerLora locations. Their 13 employees are in a holding pattern and they have a warehouse full of custom furniture they are unable to deliver — to customers who would love to get it while they are quarantined at home.
To add to their frustration, the Sigesmunds have never done sales online since their business is so tactile.
Luckily, they had recently redesigned their website and already a few longtime customers bought merchandise online that was already in stock. For the first time, Perry took to Instagram (@PerLoraHome) conducting a live virtual tour of their two-story South Side store and they have both FaceTimed with customers.
Wearing gloves and face masks, the couple have personally delivered small items they can carry to customers’ cars. They are now considering hiring professional movers to drop off bigger shipments to customers’ homes.
As it was for many businesses, applying for a PPP loan proved to be immensely frustrating. Perlora did not get the loan the first time around. They are hoping for success with the second round of PPP funding, from more than $310 billion which became available April 27 and is expected to run out quickly.
In the meantime, the Sigesmunds partnered with Bonfire Food & Drink, another East Carson Street business, so they could support each other during these uncertain times. Customers who buy a gift certificate from PerLora will receive a gift card to Chef Chris Bonfili’s eatery, which offers takeout and delivery (via Uber Eats and Grubhub) Thursday through Saturday.
Update: The Sigesmunds scored a PPP loan from a small bank the day this article was published. “It’s a champagne night!” declared Lora.