FRONT ROYAL – The town had disbursed $865,000 of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities (CARES) Act grants to over 90 businesses, according to Chamber of Commerce President Niki Cales.
Businesses are eligible to receive CARES disbursements from the town, via the Chamber of Commerce, in amounts ranging from $2,500-$20,000 depending on gross 2019 receipts. Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick recently said the first round of CARES Act disbursements “was a wild success.”
“We were on the cutting edge early in this pandemic to try to find a way to offer some relief…The months that we spent trying to come up with a program allowed us to launch that much sooner to help these businesses,” he said.
Rick Novak, the owner of Royal Cinemas and the Royal Family Bowling Center, said each of his businesses received the maximum $20,000 available through the CARES Act. Compared to previous years’ revenues, Novak said the bowling center is down about $200,000, or 40%, and the movie theater is down $274,000, or 70%. While both of his businesses have reopened, they remain unable to operate at full capacity as proper social distancing measures are followed.
“We’re super, super grateful for those awards…That still won’t get my head above water, but it will help us survive,” he said.
Between savings, CARES and Payroll Protection Program money, Novak said his payroll is within 3% of where it normally is, so luckily the employees have not been hit too hard by the pandemic.
He added that the way his businesses have survived is also through borrowing money from the Small Business Administration and not paying rent. He explained that the businesses are about $96,000 behind in rent, which is money “we still owe, but now it’s at the bank as a note.” Even if a “magic wand” is waved tomorrow and the virus goes away, he said “it’s gonna be a while before all the businesses recover.”
“We’ve just appreciated everyone’s efforts. Whether it’s customers coming in while we are playing classics or coming into the bowling center right after we opened. We appreciate everybody’s support. We appreciate the things that the town and the county have been trying to do to help small business in our community,” he said.
Novak added that businesses outside of town also desperately need CARES money. The county began accepting CARES applications Sept. 8 and will continue doing so through Sept. 21, or until the funds are exhausted.
“Everybody’s hanging on by a thread. We need to get that money out to the businesses that need it,” he said.
Michael Williams, owner of MDUB Chauffeur Services LLC, explained that being semi-retired and married to a medical professional resulted in him hurting less than someone like Novak, who has employees living paycheck to paycheck.
Still, Williams has suffered from multiple angles, as a small business owner who also contracted and recovered from the virus. He said MDUB Chauffeur Services lost about $17,000 in confirmed business and “it keeps climbing because I had confirmed business all the way into November and I’m having cancellations left and right still.”
“It was hand to mouth for my business for a while because there wasn’t any business,” he said. “So, really it was whatever I could find in my mouth. I don’t even know that I had a hand.”
Most of his CARES money, Williams said, was used for radio advertisements and payments on his vehicle.
“If I had been doing the volume that I had done before, here’s the irony, I could have afforded the advertising but I probably wouldn’t have done it because I wouldn’t have needed it,” he said.
Williams said the “bread and butter” of his operations had been trips to the airport, wine tours, concerts, sporting events and plays. While the business has survived so far, he said “I might have to have a different conversation with myself” if business does not pick up by the holidays.
Williams explained that he has a lot of friends in the chauffeur industry, and many of them “don’t have the advantage of a Chamber of Commerce connection and a small town that actually cares about them.”
“Our small town has its issues…but I’ll tell you what, I’ll put how my community looks out for one another above anywhere else I’ve ever lived,” Williams said.
William Huck, owner of C&C Frozen Treats, said the $10,000 in CARES money his business received will help get through the winter, which “is the slowest time of the year for us.”
“We are thankful to have received the help. As all businesses in today’s society, we have to plan ahead. So that is why the town and the county are partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to make sure our small business community can continue to operate and plan for the future,” he said.
Huck noted that the program is open to all businesses and “I encourage all to reach out to see how we can help each other.” He added that while the government’s helping hand was generous, it is not the government’s job to save his business.
“That comes from putting 100% of yourself into what it is you choose to do,” he said.