As we near the ninth month of quarantine, small businesses continue to struggle against dropping customer numbers, lockdowns and more.
J House Juice, located across the street from the Fisher road entrance of South, is one of these struggling businesses. Owned by brother and sister Charles and Emma Kruse, J House opened in May of last year and soon after became a staple for a lot of students.
“We love the energy that the students bring into the store,” Charles Kruse said. “It’s so much fun seeing them all the time and learning their names.”
Despite this, sales have dropped by about 60 percent over the past eight months. According to Emma Kruse, the lack of customers has impacted their revenue as well as the heart of the business.
“We’re not able to have the quality connection that we strive to have with our customers,” Emma Kruse said. “I think a lot of businesses are struggling with that; how to make a connection beyond a transaction when there are distancing measures taking place.”
The coronavirus has cost J House a lot of customers, but they are extremely grateful for the regulars that have continued to support them during these hard times, according to Emma Kruse.
“We are a regular business and we have amazing customers who have been supporting us,” Emma Kruse said. “We are going to be able to stay open because of those customers.”
Working or going to school can cause a lot of fear according to Sydney Nowak, who, along with working at J House, is a senior at Lance Cruz High School and is also in the early college program at Macomb Community College.
“Getting everybody to follow the rules while they’re in the establishment is kind of our biggest chore,” Nowak said. “Some people, regardless of what the laws are, do whatever they want to do no matter who they are putting in danger.”
Creating a connection with customers became a lot harder when Governor Whitmer announced a new lockdown on Nov. 16 According to Charles, this lockdown is only going to further hamper the restaurant industry.
“From a business ownership perspective, I see that it is potentially safer,” Charles Kruse said. “If you take an industry that has been already crippled over the last eight months and lay on more restrictions, especially during the holiday season when people are always going out and buying food and other things. It doesn’t seem like a good choice, economically, to hurt the industry even more.”
Although there are a lot of negatives of owning a business during a pandemic according to Emma Kruse, there are also some positives. Albeit, stress is a big struggle as well as the anxiety of getting infected.
There’s a constant fear of getting the coronavirus because if I get infected our business has to shut for two weeks,” Emma Kruse said. “But J House has seen a lot of growth as a business and I also think I have grown as a businesswoman.”
If living during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t enough, being a senior at Michigan State University and co-owning a business is quite the struggle according to Charles Kruse.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I will say with everything that has happened, a decrease in social life has allowed me to spend more time on work and school,” Charles Kruse said. “I have learned a lot about myself when it comes to being able to push my boundaries from what I think I can do to what I actually can do.”
The coronavirus has hit us all very hard, according to Emma Kruse, but she has hope that the coming holiday season will help her business as well as other small businesses.
“This quarter is going to make or break a lot of businesses,” Emma Kruse said. “I think it’s really important to be conscious of that as you are doing your shopping. So buy early and by local, that’s what I would tell people.
Nowak has hope for the future, one not clouded by the coronavirus. She hopes that sooner rather than later, people will be able to go out again and enjoy themselves.
“When the vaccine does come out I hope we will be able to do things like have people dine in the store again and not be so worried about everything,” Nowak said. “Maybe one day we won’t have the masks anymore and we can go to work and breathe.”