With streets abandoned and most of the people at residence due to self-isolation mandates, Berkeley companies are hurting. On March 18, simply two days after the Bay Space’s shelter-in-place order went into impact, Mayor Jesse Arreguín estimated that companies had seen a 25-75% drop in gross receipts. The decline has in all probability accelerated since then.
To assist small companies, arts nonprofits and tenants, town and enterprise and group leaders on Sunday launched the Berkeley Relief Fund. As soon as it’s up and operating, it would hand out small grants to assist establishments and folks climate these tough occasions. Town of Berkeley has pledged to contribute $three million to the fund. Firms and group members have up to now chipped in one other $556,000, together with $250,000 from Bayer US, which has operations in West Berkeley. Organizers are hoping to lift as a lot as $6 million.
Berkeleyside reached out to some native enterprise homeowners to speak to them concerning the impacts they’re experiencing from the coronavirus and the shelter-in-place order.
The toy retailer: “Every thing got here to a screeching halt”
Stephanie Sala, the proprietor of Five Little Monkeys, a kids’s toy retailer with branches across the Bay Space, had already been making contingency plans for her enterprise when the shelter-in-place order got here down on March 16. Conscious of individuals’s considerations about coronavirus, she had been fascinated about a concierge service the place individuals might take a look at toys over the telephone and choose them up curbside.
That every one modified when Berkeley’s well being officer ordered all non-essential businesses to shut by 12:01 a.m. March 17. With no gross sales anticipated at her shops, which embody a warehouse on Tenth Road and a retail retailer on Fourth Road, Sala needed to lay off her 50 workers.
“Rapidly every little thing got here to a screeching halt,” stated Sala. I had “the belief that this money movement I had buzzing alongside unexpectedly got here to a halt. It’s been actually, actually exhausting.”
Hardest of all was out of the blue telling the individuals who had labored for her that they now not had jobs and that she couldn’t inform them when 5 Little Monkeys would reopen.
On March 20, Sala despatched out an e mail to her prospects — and received a response she hadn’t anticipated.
“We’ve got all the time tried to do our greatest to assist our local people by donating to colleges, by donating toys to these in want, organizing toy drives after pure disasters, and sponsoring native youth sports activities groups,” Sala wrote within the e mail. “Now we want the group to return the favor.”
The group rallied. On-line gross sales surged, stated Sala. That has allowed her to rehire a couple of workers. The gross sales are additionally preserving her busy fulfilling orders at her warehouse. However on-line gross sales have solely ever been a small a part of her income, and he or she nonetheless has hire on six areas and distributors to pay. Sala will not be sure what the weeks forward will convey.
“I’m scared,” she stated. “I don’t know if we’ll make it by way of. I’m hopeful however there’s a piece of me that doesn’t know.”
The fuel station: Enterprise is down 75%
About 36 hours after the Bay Space shelter-in-place order kicked in, enterprise was manner down at Coast Gas Station and Bridgeway Service on Claremont Boulevard and Ashby Avenue. Usually, the filling station (which sells Coast gasoline) has about 25 to 30 prospects by 8:30 a.m. That morning, about half that many had proven up.
Quick ahead a couple of days. Nothing had improved. Often Bridgeway is a daily cease for individuals who stay in Contra Costa County and drive to work at UC Berkeley. On Monday, Steve Carvalho, Bridgeway’s proprietor, stated nobody had gotten fuel between 7 and 9 a.m. Within the subsequent few hours, there have been solely about seven to 10 prospects. Most individuals are simply staying at residence.
“There are automobiles on the street,” stated Carvalho. “In the event that they go to the grocery retailer and residential they’re not going to burn a tank of fuel.”
As an “important” enterprise that may stay open, Carvalho has it luckier than most. He’s allowed to pump prospects’ fuel and to repair their automobiles. Nonetheless, enterprise is down 75%, stated Carvalho. He despatched one in every of his two workers on trip, he stated.
Carvalho has one benefit: he owns the land the filling station sits on. His household began Bridgeway in Oakland 72 years in the past and moved it to Berkeley round 1943 or ’44. He took over operations from his mother and father.
“I can ask my landlord to not cost me any hire,” Carvalho joked. He’s involved concerning the enterprise setting and says it’s a lot worse than the times after 9/11. However Carvalho stated he expects to tug by way of.
“I can climate it pretty good. I received’t pay myself. As an owner-operator, you pay your workers and also you pay your payments. You don’t pay your self.”
The hair salon: “Every thing is unsure.”
Virginia Perez opened her personal hair salon, Vika Salon, at 2442 Sacramento St. round 12 years in the past. The reviews on Yelp are exemplary and communicate to the care and a spotlight Perez pays prospects. “Vika (Virginia) is incredible! I’m not exaggerating after I say that that is one of the best haircut I’ve had my total life,” one buyer wrote. “Victoria is wonderful! She did wonders with my flat, lifeless, skinny hair and made me look superior,” wrote one other.
The March 16 shelter-in-place order ended these interactions with prospects, as hairdressers usually are not thought of important companies. Since then, Perez has been grappling with quite a few questions on how she’s going to maintain her enterprise going.
“It’s solely me, I do every little thing,” she stated. “It makes me really feel apprehensive as a result of I’ve to maintain paying hire and bills. I haven’t been involved with the constructing homeowners. I don’t know what’s subsequent, every little thing’s unsure.”
Perez now not has any earnings. She stated she would possibly have the ability to maintain going for about three months. She doesn’t need to go away the realm. “The individuals listed here are good to me and this neighborhood is very nice. The range and tradition assist me too,” she stated.
What Perez needs most of all is info, significantly from town about how she will get help: “Perhaps if town gave a information for one of the best ways to succeed in establishments to provide assist,” she stated. “For now, the primary factor is getting info. We hearken to the information, however we don’t know easy methods to entry it.”
The bookstores: On-line gross sales serving to considerably
The show in Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore on School Avenue displays the harrowing occasions. Their “mascot,” a model nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway, the Virginia Woolf character, is carrying a face masks and is holding a roll of bathroom paper. She is surrounded by books with titles like Outsmarting Fear, The Uninhabitable Earth, Handbook for Survival and When the Sky Fell on Splendor.
Usually, March and April are busy months for the shop, as publishers put out their spring releases, based on Marion Abbott, one of many bookstore’s co-owners. The authors Lily King and Adam Hochschild have been lined as much as communicate. The shop was excited concerning the April launch of a memoir, Every thing is Beneath Management, by Phyllis Grant, a Berkeley cook dinner who shares her life tales on her weblog and Instagram account, Sprint and Bella. “We might have offered lots of her books,” stated Abbott. “I really feel horrible for these authors” who’ve books popping out through the shelter-in-place order, she added. All of that was canceled.
Mrs. Dalloway’s shut its doorways on March 17 and has paid its 12 workers by way of then. Enterprise has dropped by two-thirds or three-fourths, Abbott stated. The shop has been eking out some earnings by way of on-line gross sales. Every Saturday, the shop posts a really useful learn on its Instagram account. It communicates with its prospects on Fb and thru common newsletters.
The shopper response has been incredible, with regular on-line gross sales of books and present certificates, however Abbott is anxious. April 1 looms and he or she hasn’t but talked to her landlord about hire. The shop stopped getting any new books, but it surely nonetheless has to pay excellent invoices to distributors.
“I feel we are able to hobble alongside for one more month or so,” stated Abbott. “If individuals step up and order on-line — that may maintain us alive for some time.”
Amy Thomas, the “president for all times” of the three branches of Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Oakland, can also be counting on on-line gross sales to maintain her bookstores working. The shops make use of 34 individuals, a lot of whom have been there for years. Thomas needed to lay them off, however is utilizing a few of the retailer’s funds to make further funds to workers in want, she stated. The shop has ramped up its social media to encourage prospects to purchase on-line. She additionally plans to speak to her suppliers and landlords about her subsequent funds.
“We’re laser-focused on making it by way of this,” stated Thomas, who acquired the shops in 1995. “We’ve got been by way of some dreadful occasions earlier than as a result of we’re a bookstore in America.”
The music venue: “It’s terrifying.”
On March 6, the UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall had a full roster of music exhibits deliberate, from Pussy Riot to Music of Queen For Children and The Chats. Patrons have been having fun with the variety of music on supply on the venue, which opened in 2016, in addition to its meals and bar service and sound system. On March 7, David Mayeri, who led the drive to rework the decaying movie show on College Avenue right into a 1,400-person music corridor, canceled exhibits by way of the top of Might due to the specter of the coronavirus.
With out the ticket gross sales money movement, which makes up 60% of UC Theatre’s income, the nonprofit group is struggling, Mayeri stated. It’s not solely future performances in danger. There are 75 individuals on the payroll who at the moment are out of labor. And one in every of UC Theatre’s major missions — to coach younger individuals from deprived backgrounds within the nuts and bolts of the music enterprise — from creating monetary spreadsheets, to promoting tickets, reserving expertise and operating a present — is in peril. The shelter-in-place order has interrupted the venue’s nine-month coaching program for 20 college students, moved conferences to digital hangouts, and disadvantaged the scholars on hands-on coaching.
“It’s a tough time for everybody and we need to keep linked to our group,” stated Mayeri. “We’re a household.”
UC Theatre’s different income stream is tax-deductible contributions and Mayeri and his board are asking the group to donate generously throughout this tough time. How nicely that may work remains to be unclear as a result of the inventory market has gone by way of wild gyrations prior to now few weeks. Many companies are shuttered, and there’s a lot uncertainty concerning the future — not best circumstances through which to hunt donations. As well as, there’s competitors for funds as a result of most different arts organizations are dealing with comparable challenges and all are reaching out to their very own communities.
The UC Theatre is attempting to attach with individuals in each manner it may well consider, together with emails asking for assist, requests through Fb, Twitter, Instagram and Google advertisements, and loans and grants from native, state and federal sources.
“We’re going by way of a three-month interval the place there is no such thing as a income,” stated Mayeri. “We’ve got a short-term money disaster…. Hopefully, it’s only for three months.”
Many bigger music producers have moved exhibits to the autumn, together with Coachella, and bands scheduled for then need to ebook native exhibits, stated Mayeri, He can see a time within the not too distant future the place music present income will movement once more.
“We’re optimistic concerning the future,” stated Mayeri. “We’ve got to get by way of these three months. It’s terrifying. We need to the group to assist us.”
Natalie Orenstein contributed reporting to this story.