SALT LAKE CITY — While the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt lives and schedules across the country, the personal financial impacts are falling hardest on those whose sources of income have been closed, delayed or entirely upended by the global pandemic.
These are people who don’t have the luxury of adjusting to a work-from-home schedule, which, while slightly inconvenient, still provides them a paycheck. Instead, these folks are watching their sources of income disappear faster than toilet paper off a Costco shelf.
Yet amid the upheaval, the five small business owners the Deseret News talked with mentioned having strong support systems, and many expressed a desire to be “part of the solution.” Some are sharing toilet paper with friends and planning to cook meals together if their freezers start running low, while others said they’re reaching out to both give and receive support from others.
No one is angry or bitter — just worried.
Here are their stories.
Advanced Deep Clean
Nikki Line is usually cleaning six days a week. The 40-year-old Salt Lake resident and owner of Advanced Deep Clean believes cleaning is a talent, and jokes it’s her only one. But she loves it, which makes it easy to go to work each day.
It’s been admittedly harder the last few weeks, as she’s been adding extra tasks to her routines — deep cleaning rugs and disinfecting any surface that people might touch.
She was also preparing to stock up on supplies — but then everything got “hectic,” and now there’s nothing left on the shelves.
She’s relying on diluted bleach and germicidal disinfectant and has turned to rags instead of paper towels, taking them home to wash each day.
Her 10 regular clients, many of them yearslong, haven’t canceled yet, but her normal advertising isn’t bringing in anyone new.
It is, however, earning her some criticism that she’s trying to capitalize off the virus.
She brushes it off, knowing that this is how she helps provide for her family, which includes her husband, who drives dump trucks, and their 2½-year-old daughter.
“When you’re in the income bracket I am, I do OK as long as I’m working,” she says. “If I’m not working, things are going to go south really quick.”
Update: Line has decided to close for 30 days.
Ken Copeland has been feeding Utahns since 1998, growing Elizabeth’s Catering to handle nearly 2,500 events a year — company trainings, business functions and holiday parties, but his major focus is daily employee meals — helping companies feed their people, especially those in the tech sector.
But with so many folks now working from home now — there’s hardly anyone left in offices to feed.
Copeland, the CEO/owner, estimates that in the last few weeks, he’s lost between $150,000 and $200,000 in revenue.
The company recently launched a delivery service with individually packaged meals served hot and ready, or cold for fridge storage so employees who need to be on-site could grab them at staggered times, avoiding gatherings in a break room.
“Reach out to your neighbors, see if you can help them.” — Ken Copeland
His main goal is to avoid layoffs of his 25 employees, planning to “take the hit personally,” as much as possible, rather than have it affect his people. But despite the company’s financial prudence over the last few years, he’s still worried it may not be enough to carry them through a drought longer than 2 months.
“The hospitality industry as a whole is taking a huge hit, he said. “Reach out to your neighbors, see if you can help them.”
Cameron Reeve always figured there might be a time when he had to step away from his love of DJing to find another job.
He just didn’t expect it to come in the form of a government mandate.
Yet four hours after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared that mass events needed to be limited to 100 people to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, “everything I had on the books, and everything the company I was working for had on the books was canceled,” he said. “That’s the part that blew me away. I went from having the best year so far, to having absolutely nothing.”
People were apologetic as they canceled, but Reeve could hear the stress in their voices.
No one wanted to do this, but they couldn’t be the ones defying orders.
As soon as the dust settled, Reeve, 28, began to think about how to improve his skills for future events, so he spent two days learning a new lighting software.
When the shock finally wore off, he realized that sharpening his current skill set wasn’t going to put food on the table for his family, for whom he is the sole provider.
When Reeve took the call from the Deseret News Monday afternoon, he was in his car, driving from place to place, looking for a job in retail or at grocery stores. By Thursday he had already worked two shifts for TW Services at the Kroger/Smith’s warehouse in Layton, struggling to keep up with the massive demand for food.
His family of six, including four kids ages 11 to 1, has good support, and because Reeve had been preparing to make some major business purchases in the spring, they have some money to rely on in the meantime.
“I know I’m not the only one,” he said. “I just wish I could help everyone else. That’s where I’m at in my situation, because I’m OK, but some of my friends are not.”
Mattinson Roadside and Recovery
Having been a driver for a roadside assistance company for several years, Kaden Mattinson, 32, realized the market for helping people with flat tires, lockouts and dead batteries was underserved.
So he set out on his own, and in October started Mattinson Roadside and Recovery.
Five months later, he and his wife had grown the family business to a team of six with two company cars, responding anywhere from North Salt Lake to Santaquin, averaging 8-12 calls a day.
Then the virus came and scared everybody, Mattinson says, and people stopped traveling.
And they stopped calling.
Last week they took about 10 calls total. No one is getting paid, he says, and if it keeps going this way, he’s going to have to close the business.
If that happens, they lose the company cars and their own personal car, as they’re all on leases.
“We then lose everything,” says Mattinson, who’s supporting two little ones at home in Lehi, and three kids with their mom in Springville. “We rely on that income for everything we do. Food, rent, phones, all of it.”
“Everybody’s hurting from it.” — Kaden Mattinson
Backup plans? Those jobs are all being shuttered too.
Yet their support group is strong, and everyday he says they’re getting calls from friends and family who are asking how they’re doing, even from folks in similar positions.
“Everybody’s hurting from it,” he says.
Carol’s Pastry Shop
Al Walkenhorst has been making eclairs for 72 years and has crafted literally hundreds of thousands of the sweets at Carol’s Pastry Shop in Sugar House.
“We’ve built our business on big orders,” Walkenhorst said, then listed off weddings, reception centers, church functions, business luncheons, University of Utah seminars and Salt Lake County officials’ retirement parties as the sources of those orders.
Just last week, the 92-year-old baker, his brother Bob and a small handful of family employees had an order for 40 dozen cookies for a Park City ski resort — but then the resort called and canceled.
In fact, all three big orders for last week were canceled.
Now, the bakery that Walkenhorst started as a young man is relying on walk-in and drive-up orders for a few cookies or maybe a half-a-dozen eclairs.
“It’s gonna slow us up,” he says simply, perhaps even a little optimistically.
In more than seven decades, Walkenhorst said he’s never experienced a drop in business like this, and is not quite sure what it will mean for the family shop.
“It’s going to be different,” he said. “They say it might last a couple months. All our June weddings …” he trails off. “It’ll be different.”