Local small businesses suffering severe impacts from COVID-19 restrictions

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Life really is like a box of chocolates for Brenda Tusing, owner of the Royal Chocolate. 

“What are your choices? To sit home and cry about it ? You know it’s your business at stake,” Tusing.

The coronavirus pandemic has been bittersweet for the chocolatier. She had to take out a government loan to keep the business from melting.

The Retail Alliance released the results of a survey to local small business owners. It found nearly a third of local small business owners say they are experiencing severe negative impacts from the pandemic. Another third say it’s pretty bad, while about 14 percent are actually seeing a positive impact.

Tusing told WAVY.com the situation makes you rethink your business model.  

“A little challenge isn’t a bad thing, a lot of the things we’ve changed we’ll continue with and they’ll be very good things for our business,” she said.

One change is a new kit for kids to create their own chocolate bar. It was a popular in-store event and now it is packaged to-go. The store also discounted delivery fees and started using Door Dash.

Still, business at the Royal Chocolate is down 15 to 20 percent, Tusing said, “which is not bad, considering.”

“My heart breaks for the restaurants,” she said.

Many restaurants have struggled.

“We had to lay off 18 of our staff because we just had no work,” Fred Schoenfeld, owner of the Commodore Theatre tod WAVY.

The theatre and restaurant closed in mid-March. Two more weeks, and it could be curtains for Schoenfeld’s Portsmouth business. 

“We got some money, just enough to cover about two months, but with reopening next Friday, hopefully we’ll be able to pick back up,” he said.

More than half of local business owners who’ve taken out loans, expect they will be forgiven, according to the Retail Alliance. They also found that many believe they’ll need more money over the next year.

While the Royal Chocolate and the Commodore seem on track to survive some local employers are still competing with the cares act.

Ten percent of small business owners told the Retail Alliance that they have had an employee decline a job offer because they ‘re making more money while on unemployment.

“The good here, to me, is when this all goes back to whatever is going to be normal, small business is going to shine,” Tusing said.

That’s because she believes people have really gotten a taste of what local business brings to the community.

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