Lana Meli’s survivor challenge is the story of tens of thousands of businesses owners in New York, the region and the nation.
The owner of a Rockaway Park women’s dress shop, Lana’s Loft, she thinks her small store might survive but if only under the right circumstances: She receives effective federal help and can re-open soon.
“What is killing us is all the uncertainty,” she says. “I think what helps is that I heard President Trump say that this can’t go on for three months; that this could kill the economy.”
Meli, with one of the few stores providing women’s dresses and accessories on the Rockaway peninsula, closed some two weeks ago.
Before the full extent of the virus hit, Meli says Lana’s Loft was doing well. But this month she was recording almost no business because people were “afraid to come out.”
Meli furloughed her mostly part-time workers, but kept a full-time worker on the payroll.
The shop’s survival, she notes, is important because “I am also in this for my personal income.”
Meli, who started the store just before Hurricane Sandy, was out of business for about six months after the storm. She is taking big losses. But vendors “have been very understanding.”
Meli goes to her store each day and is planning its potential path to survival.
“If we could open up around Easter time; that would be really great,” she says. “We’re by the beach. We do a lot of summertime business.”
But a strong economic recovery is the key, she says. “What happens if people have no disposable income? They are going to pay rent, buy food and not dresses.”
She is also wary about the details of the much debated $2 trillion government stimulus package.
“The Republicans are notoriously stingy and the Democrats are all pro-employee and want nothing for the business owner.”
Meli believes many lawmakers don’t understand small business. “You can tell by the way they argue on television.”
Mark Gallagher, the owner of three small businesses in Queens employing some 30 people, has temporarily closed two restaurants in Forest Hills and Glendale, Manor Oktoberfest, but kept his Manor Delicatessen in Woodhaven operating. Gallagher agrees lawmakers often don’t understand small business problems. He dismisses the idea that restaurants can survive on takeout. “That is not a sustainable model.”
What could the government do to help small businesses?
“It would be nice,” Gallagher says, “if they gave a zero-percentage loan to get us through and then we could pay it back.”
Gallagher and Meli’s experiences are similar to many small businesses that are fighting to survive, according to a small business group.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), in a new survey, says “76 percent” of those surveyed nationwide have been hurt by the outbreak of the Coronavirus. That is about two hundred percent more over what the NFIB found a month ago.
“You can take it as a given that the 76 percent number is considerably higher here,” says Greg Biryla, New York State Director for the NFIB.
“Of those businesses negatively impacted, 23 percent are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 54 percent slower sales and nine percent sick employees,” NFIB said.