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Small businesses unsure how long they'll last through pandemic

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MADISON, Wis. -- It’s no secret the coronavirus outbreak has changed the way restaurants run. Many have been forced to only offer curb-side or delivery for months now.

"We've lost all of our catering sales. We've lost all of our sales at the Madison Children's museum, we had a little kiosk there. Those sales are gone" said Brewer Stouffer, the owner of Roman Candle Pizzeria.

For Roman Candle, this couldn’t come at a worse time.

At the end of 2019, it closed two of it’s four locations, in Fitchburg and on Monroe street. After several years struggling to find staff, and Monroe Street’s construction bringing in less foot traffic, they just couldn’t keep up.

The next month, coronavirus hit the U.S.

"You don't budget for those sorts of events," said Stouffer.

He said even though Roman Candle’s business model was already built to include pick up and delivery, the pandemic is hitting the business hard.

"It was a part of our sales, not all of our sales." he said. "I don't know what the future holds, I really don't. And yet I'm thinking about it every single day."

He’s not alone. Everyone is trying to look towards the future, expecting the financial hit to businesses will last longer than just the next few months.

"There are a lot of projections that 35% of small businesses may not be able to reopen or choose not to reopen based on what it would cost to revamp their businesses," said Deb Archer, President and CEO of Destination Madison.

She says while businesses have been catastrophically hit, there’s less money coming into the area as well.

4:12 "In a single year, visitors spend $1.4 billion in our community. That's what they spent in 2019. And (this year) we're estimating that the visitor population will be down by 70%. We're looking at, you know, $750 million that probably won't be coming into our community, or more," said Archer.

Many small businesses are finding creative ways to go virtual. Retailers are beginning the new process of shipping products, and business owners are catering to the families who wants to stay home, a customer base that could stay for a long time.

"I do think some of those things could be permanent and can enhance their revenue sources and their revenue streams and certainly for the foreseeable future," said Archer.


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