Small businesses across San Antonio have fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak and seen unprecedented decreases in sales. In an attempt to flatten the curve, Mayor Ron Nirenburg issued a Stay Home, Work Safe order, forcing all non-essential businesses to close. This has caused emotional and financial insecurity for small business owners and employees. Even essential businesses that remain open struggle to attract customers and create and maintain new business practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Indy Coffee Club, though beloved especially by UTSA students, has suffered from less business since the outbreak.
“I don’t know what tomorrow looks like,” barista Mateo Rodriguez said. “It seems like news is constantly changing by the hour.”
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a recommendation to keep public gatherings at a maximum of 10 people, Indy removed the chairs from its building to minimize the number of customers inside at any one time. Later, Indy began to-go orders only, but ordering inside was allowed. Next, curbside coffee runs were the standard. Currently, there is a table outside of Indy with a cardboard “To-Go” sign taped to it; this way, baristas can place to-go orders on the table to ensure no contact between customer and employee is made.
Barista Matthew Fulara wants to reassure customers that Indy is operating safely so they’ll feel comfortable shopping with their favorite small businesses during a time when many are struggling.
“Small businesses definitely need the support right now,” Fulara said. “Definitely taking an impact on just, like, the day-to-day, and just the livelihood of employees here. So, just, you know, we’re keeping it clean, and it’s safe the way that we’re operating it now, and we’re just being mindful of all the information that’s being let out to take the precautionary steps.”
Cured Printing Company, which makes printed apparel, stickers, business cards and embroidery, is another San Antonio-based business that is feeling the effects of COVID-19. Because its clients have moved to selling the merchandise they’ve ordered from Cured Printing online versus in store, Cured Printing has had to figure out how to engage with them through this new medium.
The struggles of Cured Printing’s clients, who tend to also be small business owners, are not lost on Jason Garza, the owner and operator of Cured Printing. That’s why he is advocating for San Antonians to support who he feels to be some of the most dedicated workers.
“I think it’s important to continue to support small businesses during this time because they need you the most right now. Myself included, we would not be doing this for the money,” Garza said. “Entrepreneurship has to be about heart. No one would quit a safe 9-5 job to risk everything and work twice as hard for half the pay unless they had heart.”
To Garza, part of the importance of supporting small businesses is at the core of San Antonio.
“Small business is what [keeps] San Antonio, San Antonio,” Garza said. “We have a rich culture rooted in hard work and sacrifice to build the American dream.”
Garza is doing his part to help out small businesses during this time despite he himself operating a family-owned business. He created the SA Strong Collection to give back to small businesses finding difficulty paying their bills. When a customer buys a shirt from this collection, $10 will go to the small business they select from a dropdown menu at checkout.
“Our goal was to raise 1k to donate back and hope to pay them out on a weekly basis to help with some of [small businesses’] bills,” Garza said. “As of right now, we have given back over $550.”
On Cured Printing’s website, there’s an option to nominate a small business to receive some of the funds from these T-shirt sales. The way people throughout San Antonio have aided businesses most in need during this time through these nominations and their personal shopping habits isn’t surprising to Garza.
“San Antonio is good at coming together and supporting each other when they see people suffering,” Garza said. “I’m proud of that about our city.”
Even some larger businesses are lifting small businesses on their shoulders to give them the visibility they need to stay afloat during this time. San Antonio’s own Pearl Farmers Market is ensuring local farmers and small businesses are continuing to receive assistance.
According to a public statement released by Pearl Farmers Market on March 17, “Pearl is dedicated to fostering community and supporting our farmers and small businesses during this difficult time while prioritizing the health and safety of visitors and vendors.”
This is why Pearl has decided to continue its Farmers Market through online ordering and curbside pickup.
“Farmers Market Curbside has provided a channel for many of our small food producers (ranchers and farmers) to sell their product and keep the vendors viable during this time,” Jennifer Chowning, Senior Marketing Manager for Pearl, said. “However, there are other producers that are seeing steep declines in their sales. Pearl is doing what it can to help, but COVID-19 has been devastating both financially and emotionally for so many of our partners.”
The financial and emotional distress being experienced by small businesses and local farmers puts into perspective the positive impact customer loyalty and support can have.
“It is important to support these businesses as they are vital to the local community and economy,” Chowning said. “Pearl is focused and committed on creating channels and opportunities for our partners to remain solvent during this time.”
To shop with Indy Coffee Club, located at 7114 UTSA Boulevard No. 103, call them at (210) 233-9203 to place your order and pick up your coffee curbside, or visit their website to shop for merchandise. To play a role in helping small businesses pay their bills or to nominate a small business to receive financial help, find Cured Printing Company here. To support local farmers and other small businesses affiliated with Pearl, place an online order by Wednesday at midnight and pick up your order from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. that Friday.