MANCHESTER, N.H. – As the weather gets colder and concerns remain around the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners have a message to anyone doing their holiday shopping: help us now or we might not be here in the spring.
In honor of the rapidly approaching Small Business Saturday, Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) invited several small business owners from across the Granite State to a virtual roundtable event on Monday to share their concerns and thoughts on the upcoming holiday shopping season and the continuing impacts of the pandemic on their business.
Tim Pipp, owner of the Manchester-based Beeze Tees Screen Printing, opened that new location in addition to his existing shop in Keene shortly before the beginning of the pandemic. He says remote instruction at school districts has made scheduling difficult at his Keene store, as two of his three employees there have children in the Keene School District, which is now remote. He said that the focus on non-retail business helped with that problem somewhat, but scheduling headaches are just one of his concerns.
Pipp is worried about the uncertainty on whether he will eventually have to pay back Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Main Street loans, as well as whether business over the next few weeks will be enough to make up for what will likely be a weak first quarter of 2021.
He added that another business shutdown related to COVID-19 may be fatal to many area businesses and urged New Hampshire residents to buy locally since larger companies like Amazon can withstand a slow holiday season but many local businesses can’t and the death of local businesses has a ripple effect.
“You don’t see (Amazon’s) name on the back of softball jerseys or on banners at local gyms,” said Pipp. “They will always be there, but they will never be there at the local level. Local businesses are the ones that putting names on the backs of jerseys, local businesses are the ones giving back to non-profits and local communities and that will go away if people don’t shop locally. I’m not asking, I’m telling – people need to shop local. It’s dire right now.”
Other thoughts raised during the roundtable included gratitude regarding mask mandates (since many business owners felt uncomfortable asking customers to put on masks without one), the cost of new safety equipment for stores and the likely loss of outdoor spaces for restaurants as the weather gets colder.
For Jenni Share of To Share Brewing Company in Manchester, ample indoor space for social distancing makes that temperature change less daunting and a large jump in sales of to-go canned beers has also helped.
During the event, Pappas reiterated his hopes that a new COVID-19 relief package can come before President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January, but Share is not relying on help from the federal government in the near future.
“I think the cynical part of me knew that when (Congress) couldn’t reach an agreement after the first go-around that it wasn’t probably going to happen,” said Share. “So, we haven’t been putting all of our eggs in one basket, we’ve been using the Main Street funds at the same level smartly because we know those will actually come to us. But we’re not going to rely on the federal government at this point, it’s just not safe.”