Vancouver businesses in ‘most challenging time’


Gov. Inslee's order shut non-essential businesses

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — For decades the Java House has been a gathering spot in downtown Vancouver, owner Lonnie Chandler said. Now, though, it’s only allowing people to come and go.

It’s part of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order that shut down all non-essential businesses.

Lonnie Chandler, the owner of The Java House in downtown Vancouver, said everyone is struggling during the pandemic, March 25, 2020 (KOIN)

“This is certainly the most challenging time we’ve had during that time,” Chandler said. “It’s very hard to plan anything. It’s difficult on our customers, it’s hard on our suppliers. It’s hard on everybody.”

Beth Hovey and her friends have a 30 year long tradition of walking to get their coffee at Java House. But during the pandemic she said they’re trying to help out the struggling businesses any way they can.

“It’s really wreaking havoc on areas of everybody’s life,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We do take out because we live in Uptown Village. Food carts and take out.”

KOIN complete coverage: Coronavirus pandemic

Chandler said small business owners really have to pay attention. “You hear conflicting things. It’s difficult — what is an essential business is not. We’re fortunate that we are within that category, but at the same time it’s difficult to operate within that.”

Like many businesses, Java House put X’s on the ground 6 feet apart to reinforce social distancing. But Chandler said social distancing isn’t possible for all businesses.

A small business in Vancouver is closed during the pandemic, March 25, 2020 (KOIN)

“I can think of 5 or 6 guys that are having an incredibly difficult time,” he said. “They’ve had to lay off employees, shut their doors down. Cash flow is very difficult in that type of situation. You have employees and you want to pay them.”

Business owners are at a loss for words over how much this hurts.

“I think we have to hang together, be good to each other,” he said.

The Java House in downtown Vancouver is only open for come-and-go customers during the pandemic, March 25, 2020 (KOIN)

To the east of Vancouver lies Camas where all shopping in the downtown area–excluding grocery–will also be closed for at least two weeks under the “stay at home” mandate. And for many mom and pop shops, the overwhelming uncertainty continues to weigh heavier each day. 

“It’s a scary time to be honest,” said Carrie Schulstad, the executive director of the Downtown Camas Association. “It’s hard to know how cashflow is going to keep happening and how you’re going to keep your doors open.”

Courtesy DCA

However, small business owners in Downtown Camas are putting others before themselves.

“The biggest thing I hear from our merchants is that they’re worried about their employees more than anything,” Schulstad said. 

The Downtown Camas Association is working to get out information on applying for unemployment and small business administration loans. As the DCA is helping businesses and employees in their capacity, Schulstad hopes the community can chip in too. 

Courtesy DCA

“Find ways to support the small businesses you know and love – you don’t even have to leave your home,” she said. 

You can buy merchandise online if they have online shopping, you can buy gift cards for yourself and others, you can give businesses words of encouragement on social media, support their GoFundMe pages for their employees, and of course, order food for take out and delivery. 

“Keep spending the dollars you normally would be spending to help keep cash flow going for our businesses,” Schulstad said. 

Many fitness and wellness businesses are doing online classes as well so you can stay connected.

In times where things are changing everyday — she said one thing remains the same. 

“We’re going to get through this,” Schulstad said. ​

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