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Grants, loans available for some Northeast Ohio businesses to hold them over until the COVID-19 outbreak is over

Posted: 7:36 AM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 18:44:24-04
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ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Empty cars in empty parking spaces during Ohio’s Stay at Home order is eerie for anyone passing by, but it’s making a tough situation worse for small business owners.

“We wanted to stop the spread, we wanted to flatten the curve,” said Amy’s Shoes and Apparel owner Amy Bradford. “Without customers, there’s no cashflow.”

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The parking lot at the Old River Shopping Area is empty on a weekday at lunch time while Ohioans stay isolated because of the coronavirus.

Once Bradford decided to close down her locations in Rocky River and Woodmere, she came up with a plan to let customers order online and pick up their merchandise at the curb.

Governor DeWine’s Stay at Home order ruled out that plan, so she’ll have to ship out whatever she sells through the mail.

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Amy posts pictures and videos of the store's new merchandise, allowing customers to shop online.

Now, she and one other employee make videos for the business’ social media accounts, showing new merchandise online in case customers want to virtually window shop.

Bradford says her business is based around the in-store experience, so she’s trying to pivot as best she can.

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Bradford says for stores like hers, much of the inventory is seasonal and she would expect to have sold it by the time she might be able to open up again.

“Local businesses are really important and not just mine,” said Bradford. “So many have been really impacted by this.”

In some places, help is on the way.

The City of Lakewood is rolling out a grant program that will give up to $3,000 to small businesses in the city that employ fewer than 50 people.

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This sign sits in Amy's Shoes' window in Rocky River.

So far, Bradford says she isn’t aware of any program like that in Rocky River.

Before the outbreak, Bradford had seven employees. She had to let all but one go, for now, until the outbreak is over. She says as soon as she’s able to open the store again, she’s bringing them all back.

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Bradford says one of the biggest challenges for small business owners is to suddenly pivot into a different business model to stay afloat. Her business is based off the in-store experience which no one is allowed to have.

“I will be really blunt, we need their support,” said Bradford, referring to local customers.

Bradford says that makes it important for customers to remember locally owned shops when they are able to venture out again.

“I’m going to shop with my friend Amy who has been in business for 12 and half years and wasn’t able to be in business for x amount of weeks,” said Bradford.

The Rocky River Chamber of Commerce tells News 5 it's working with local businesses to help them as much as they can. So far, there is no loan or grant program set up to help them through the coronavirus.

You can find more information about how to apply for Lakewood’s small business grant program here.