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Schools back in session could shutter struggling small businesses

Loss of students in workforce could create problems
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Posted at 2:22 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 18:23:36-04

BEREA, Ohio — As the calendar turns from summer to fall, small business owner Angela Brooks is struggling.

“This is a very big challenge. It's a unique challenge this year," said Brooks.

Her Berea ice cream shop, Mootown Creamery, typically transitions its team at the start of every school year.

"I'm losing about half of my staff this week. This is their last week, going off to college," said Brooks.

But with ten new openings and help-wanted signs everywhere, Brooks is worried she won't have the staffing to maintain normal operations.

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Mootown Creamery in Berea.

"People want their ice cream and we want to be open. We're usually open seven days a week all year long," said Brooks.

With larger retailers and restaurant chains offering hiring bonuses and increased hourly wages, applying for a job here may not be as appealing.

"We can't afford to pay that kind of money or a sign-on bonus, so it's really hurting us," said Brooks.

For the first time ever, Brooks is floating the idea of being open less or depending on manpower, not at all.

"So, the fact that we're talking about closing a couple of days is kind of scary, I don't like that," said Brooks.

Michael Goldberg, an entrepreneur and professor at Case Western Reserve University, said small business owners like Brooks are facing a greater challenge with classes back in session.

"This summer looks very different. It is a crisis for small business owners and there's not an easy solution," said Goldberg.

Goldberg said altered hours could change the buying habits of consumers.

"Maybe I'll take my dollars somewhere else where I know the restaurant or ice cream shop in this case is open more regular hours," said Goldberg.

And for those businesses already fatigued from the pandemic, Goldberg said it could mean the end of the road.

"There is a fear that you start to see businesses close," said Goldberg.

Meantime, Brooks is doing everything to keep the lights on in her ice cream shop and survive yet another storm.

"We thought we got through the pandemic and we all kind of breathed this big sigh of relief that we made it and now we're getting hit with the second wave and it's almost like the tsunami we weren't expecting," said Brooks.

RELATED: Berea ice cream shop that defended its mask policy last year to continue mask wearing after June 2