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Some small businesses fear they won't be able to stay in business after restrictions lifted

"Those who don’t think they’ll make it already, about 14 percent of our members."

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's a tough time for local small businesses. They are changing business models, applying for loans and losing out on a lot of money. Some are not sure they will be able to stay in business after the stay at home executive orders are lifted. 

"We surveyed our members a little more than a week ago," said Brian Calley, the President of the Michigan Small Business Association, "and we asked them that question: how long can you hold on? Four percent of our members said 'we think we’re already out of biz.' Another 10 percent are skeptical that they will be able to survive this. So those who don’t think they’ll make it already about 14 percent of our members."

Calley said the association has 28,000 members, so 14 percent is a large number. 

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"One thing we know for sure: the longer this goes on, the higher that number gets of the business failures, the ones who simply won’t be able to hang on any longer," said Calley. 

In West Michigan, businesses are feeling the pinch. Lee and Birch, a popular clothing store with a few shops in the area, is finding new ways to reach their customers. 

"The next month is a hard one," said Lee and Birch owner, Nikki Gillette. "Because we don’t really know what to expect and what the rules and regulations are for us exactly. The governor’s order didn’t spell out retail for us and what that means. So right now, planning on being closed until June 1."

Under the governor's revised stay at home order, retail stores are allowed to sell items through delivery or curbside pick up. 

RELATED: West Michigan business owner fights to survive pandemic

Gillette said the store has been hosting virtual fashion shows, trunk sales, and more to keep up customers. However, their bread and butter was in-person sales, where the employees can interact with the customers. 

"Trying to come up with as many creative ideas as we can to keep people to tune in," said Gillette. "But I know it’s getting old, it’s getting long. I’ve been working harder than I ever have; I haven’t had a day off in 2.5 months."

Shasta Fase, the owner of Old World Olive Co., said they hope to open in some capacity soon. 

"It’s been a little disheartening," said Fase. "We’re eager as well as other businesses to get back open and some kind of normal, but we want to be considerate of customers and what’s going on in the world. So it’s bigger than us."

Fase said she and her husband have poured their heart, soul, and a lot of money into their company. They believe the business will remain strong, and they will continue to operate for years to come. Fase says support from the community has been strong, and their online sales response is keeping the business going.

"In this day and age, we have to look at how to do things differently to make a comeback," said Fase, "and make it work for everybody."

For Old World Olive Co., doing things differently looks like rolling out a product pickup option, and reworking samples in store a bit once it is allowed to open. They will be finding ways to practice social distancing, and keeping customers healthy at all their locations once doors open. 

RELATED: Second round of federal Paycheck Protection Program now taking applications

This week, the Trump Administration announced $2.2 million small business loans have been approved for the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides financial relief to businesses with less than 500 employees.

Gillette said she was fortunate enough to be approved for the loan already, but it might not be a solution to the problem. 

"It’s a helpful loan, especially if it’s forgivable, but we’re not open," said Gillette. "So to hire my entire staff back, because the whole point of the loan is 75 percent goes to payroll and 25 percent goes to rent, but to hire my staff back not to work, especially when more are making more on unemployment right now, has been a big hurdle."

She said she believes her stores will survive, but she's worried for her friends and other owners who might be in a tougher situation. 

"I just cant imagine," said Gillette. ll of our small businesses, 14 percent of them closing down, that will totally change the look of Grand Rapids."

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