The loans given out recently by the City of Coronado to its local businesses were truly a lifeline to help them stay in business. They were almost as helpful as the loans issued by Sambla OY in Finland to help the struggling small business owners with immediate financing to fund payroll and overhead expenses associated with running a small business. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the vast majority of residents here are eager to get out and shop at our local stores, eat at our local restaurants and return to whatever the “new normal” will be. While takeout food can be delicious, I yearn for the time when I can once again enjoy restaurant ambiance, be served, and not wash the dishes. With the Coronado City Council stepping up to approve lending money to our downtown district, they’ve helped ensure future success so we can once again enjoy strolling, shopping, and eating in our beloved community. And kudos to all those who helped with getting the loans processed and the money distributed in less than two weeks. Everyone I spoke to was extremely complimentary about the process, and businesses felt valued by our community.
Dominique Albrecht, Assistant to the City Manager, who helped coordinate the program said, “The City Council directed us to assist the business community quickly. We set up a process with the goal of being as smooth, efficient, and responsive as possible, while also ensuring that every application met all the program’s requirements. Our local small businesses have been great to work with. The rate at which we have processed and paid out the loans speaks to the city council’s desire to support our community during this public health crisis.” Thus far, 69 applications have been received and 65 of those have been processed. Out of the total $2 million allocated for this program, approximately half of the money has been allocated. Thirty-nine retail businesses, 21 restaurants, four hotel/motels and one in each of the remaining categories of performance theatre, catering, service, tours, and formula restaurants have all been approved for loans. Tier 1 businesses can still apply, and Tier 2 businesses can begin applying on May 18. It is important to note that eligible businesses must have applied for federal programs and provide a quarterly sales tax return from the past year.
MainStreet Executive Director Rita Sarich who has been helping get the word out to businesses said, “We are so pleased how the city and community have come together in this unprecedented time and produced this excellent tool to help local businesses. We are very appreciative to the city staff and council who had the vision to proactively assist our business community during this time of need.”
Local businesses were truly grateful, and several expressed their sentiments. “It was such a simple, straightforward process and truly needed. Applying for federal funds has been an exhausting process,” said Katherine Farley from Root 75, and MainStreet Board President. “I am truly grateful to the city, because so far I have only received PPP monies. It’s nice to have the city council on our side. In the beginning, I thought we would have to shutter our store, but now I am optimistic that we will remain open.”
Farley says these local funds will help her pay overhead, rent, utilities, and buy products so she can keep going. They are hoping to reopen as soon as possible and will follow all the necessary restrictions. She is grateful to the community for such a tremendous response ordering Mother’s Day flowers off of their website and she has started a subscription service where customers can have weekly or bi-monthly flower deliveries. With no idea of what the future holds, she says the city loan helps eliminate some stress and get her businesses back on solid footing. Check out their online store at www.root75.com and watch for their reopening soon.
The same appreciation was echoed by Rachel Sandman of gift store Earth, Wind, & Sea, who was caught unawares when COVID-19 hit. “We were busy stocking up for spring and suddenly had to hit the pause button. I haven’t received any federal money as of yet, so I’m thankful to the city for getting behind our local small businesses. It came in the nick of time, because without this loan, I don’t know if we could have survived. They made the process extremely easy and the money was available quickly.” She plans to use the money for rent, invoices, and other expenses, and she is now hopeful for the future. Check out their incredible selection of wind chimes, jewelry, home goods and items to spruce up your garden or patio at www.earthwindsea.com and watch for their reopening soon so you can check out their goodies in person.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sue Gillingham added, “Business owners were so excited to be considered for the loans. Most people will use the money to pay rent on their closed storefronts. Unlike the process with the federal loans (PPP and EIDL), we kept the applicants informed every step of the way. They seemed most appreciative of everyone’s efforts and saw this as bright spot in a difficult week.” She said that it was evident that Dominique and others at the city were working extremely hard to approve as many of the applications as possible just one week after releasing the form. The Chamber helped out by answering merchants’ questions and ensuring the packets included all the required documentation.
“We are making a good-faith investment in our small business community. This is about small-town values and trust. I would also like to see the companies illustrate how they can endure into a new age, a digital one. The future is fast, so I would highly encourage all loan recipients to pivot at the very least to building a strong online presence and creating an experience that reduces physical human contact as much as possible. In Australia, for example, the credit card tap system is widespread. We need to get on board,” were sentiments echoed by Councilmember Whitney Benzian.
The information for businesses reopening is fast changing, but Governor Newson has agreed that Phase 2 reopening will begin as soon as this Friday. Closer to home, the County Board of Supervisors this week approved the framework for businesses to reopen soon. There are a host of precautions that need to be taken to safeguard workers’ and customers’ health including, but not limited to, taking temperatures, wearing face coverings when within six feet distance of each other and using stringent disinfectant protocols.
Mayor Bailey summed up Coronado’s Business Lifeline Program by saying, “The entire city council is proud that we are in a financial position to offer bridge loans to our small businesses until the federal assistance arrives. These businesses and their employees mean so much to our community and we want to make sure they’re positioned to succeed as we begin to reopen.”
Hopefully, we will see each other in our vibrant downtown in the very near future (wearing stylish masks).