Home News COVID-19 Situation Hoarding adds to local restaurant’s concerns

Hoarding adds to local restaurant’s concerns

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Abby Raffle, left, tries a sample of jerky Tuesday afternoon at Fatman’s Downtown, 209 N. Main St., with her friend Caitlin Emmons, both of Austin, Texas, as the store’s co-owner, Dominic Batista, watches. The women, along with friends Frannie DiBona and William Lemens, were checking out downtown stores on a spring break trip to the area. Batista said business has been steady despite calls for people to stay home to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Some Roswell businesses are starting to feel the effects of government orders and recommendations in the wake of the state’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 a week ago.

For one local restaurant, hoarding is even more of a concern than the New Mexico health secretary’s public order restricting food establishment occupancy to 50% of maximum and no greater than 50% seating capacity.

Kerry Moore, co-owner with Todd Alexander of Chef Toddzilla’s Gourmet Burgers, 107 Twin Diamond Road, said Tuesday morning she has been unable to obtain her usual supply of beef for the restaurant.

“Normally we get our beef from Sam’s Club, and they’re refusing to sell cases. And they don’t have any in stock right now, either,” she said.

The restaurant grinds its own beef, but Sam’s Club was even out of ground beef, she said. She had another distributor she was going to check with Tuesday afternoon.

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“We have enough to cover us for (Wednesday). It’s starting Thursday that we don’t,” she said.

If she’s not able to find beef, the business will possibly have to close, and that won’t hurt just the business. Moore and Alexander are the only employees of Toddzilla’s.

“That would actually make our household income zero,” she said.

Since they are owners and not paid a wage as an employee would be, she doesn’t think they would qualify for unemployment insurance.

Tuesday afternoon, however, Bill McCamley, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions cabinet secretary, sent a request to President Donald Trump to activate the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, which would allow the self-employed to have access to unemployment insurance, according to a press release from the department.

Moore said she was staying hopeful a supply of beef can be found and the business can stay open.

“Right now I’m assuming — my fingers are crossed — that all the hoarders and everybody didn’t affect my big suppliers. I’m hoping that they were able to fill their warehouses and they won’t implement a hoarding restriction on us,” she said.

Molly Boyles, owner of Once Again Consignment and Resale, 207 N. Main St., and a board member of MainStreet Roswell, said locally owned businesses, especially restaurants, are particularly vulnerable right now.

“I’m concerned because they work on a smaller margin than many of us in retail. It’s going to hurt in the long run,” she said.

“I think across the board, everybody’s concerned. I don’t think we have a panic in town. Overall, everybody is seeing an impact. I have not heard of or seen any business panicking or throwing their hands up,” she said.

Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, said that was what she had heard from businesses as well.

“People are coming in small enough numbers that they’re not uncomfortable, and they want to provide that service especially since there are no local cases reported,” Lay said.

But Boyles said if coronavirus keeps customers at home for more than a few weeks, some locally owned businesses might not be able to stay open.

“As a business owner, three weeks, I can survive. Six months? I’m not sure very many of the small businesses can survive the decrease in customers and sales for that long period of time,” she said.

Moore agreed, adding large chain stores have more protection for hard times.

“Everybody’s going to be affected no matter who they are, and they all have employees that are going to be affected. The problem runs into the small guys like us, we’re dependent on shopping local. We will be hit probably the hardest,” she said.

The large chains have large cash reserves, she said.

“A lot of us local, small guys, we’re operating just a few weeks at a time on our cash reserves,” she said.

Some relief for businesses is being made available. New Mexico Economic Development Department has created a program for businesses seeking loans or lines of credit. NMEDD can guarantee a portion of a loan or credit line up to 80% of the principal or $50,000.

The loans can be used for working capital, inventory and payroll, according to information from the department.

The state has also qualified for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance Program, according to a Tuesday press release from the governor’s office. The loans are available at a 3.75% interest rate for businesses without credit available elsewhere and at 2.75% for nonprofits. Up to $2 million can be borrowed to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills, according to the press release.

Washington Federal Credit Union is also offering lines of credit up to $200,000 interest-free up to 90 days for businesses affected by COVID-19.

While those offers might help in the short term, Boyles said it could create a long-term hardship for a small business.

“The loans, even if they are 0% interest, I don’t believe they will be a savior for the business. They have to be paid back eventually,” she said.

That could be difficult for small businesses that will also need to continue to meet day-to-day expenses such as rent, utilities and payroll.

“I don’t think there’s a way to make up for lost sales for an extended period of time,” Boyles said.

She and Moore both asked that people remember to support local businesses as much as possible.

“Even if it’s just a few dollars here and a few dollars there, don’t forget our small businesses. Some of our small businesses are relying on that business to pay for their groceries and the rent and their electricity, all those everyday expenses,” Boyles said.

Moore said she is encouraging customers to order from Toddzilla’s online and pick up at the drive-through. Many other restaurants are following similar measures, even offering drive-through or pickup orders only.

“Almost every business nowadays offers some type of gift certificate that you can purchase now to use later,” Boyles said. “That will help them get over the hump, because they will still have some operating capital to be able to pay their employees and all of that.”

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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