- Pennington continues to impact Southeast community (5/6/21)
- Phi Delta Theta and Tri Delta win Fraternity and Sorority of the Year (5/6/21)
- “Humble beginnings:” Southeast professor reflects on 40 years as a Black nurse in Cape Girardeau (5/4/21)
- SEMO’s Outdoor Opportunity Maker: Thomas Holman (4/22/21)
- SEMO musical theater student Josslyn Shaw and her NYC post-graduation plans (5/7/21)
Southeast alums work to keep local businesses afloat
While many business owners have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, three local businesses owned by three Southeast alums have defied the odds.
Burrito-Ville, a local restaurant owned by Justin Denton; Fingerprint Urban Dance Studio owned by Micheal Crank Curry and Board & Brush Cape Girardeau owned by Brittney Swicionis are three businesses that have remained afloat during the pandemic.
Due to COVID-19, Burrito-Ville had to take special precautions to keep their employees and customers safe, including fewer available seats, spacing out of tables and buying masks for employees. The restaurant now serves food in to-go containers, and many items, from forks to plates, have gone to single-use, instead of washing items.
Denton’s profits were negatively affected due to not being able to buy items that were previously available and having to buy the more expensive compostable to-go boxes, instead of Styrofoam.
“In the beginning, a lot of items had gone up and were hard to find — meat and milk were especially hard to find at times, toilet paper, masks, sanitizers,” he said. “The stuff that we use daily, everyone else was working on hoarding, or everybody else was buying, and it wasn’t as easy to get as it normally was.”
Overall, Denton is thankful COVID-19 did not have a devastating impact on his business.
He said Burrito-Ville was set up already to do take-out, and they got a lot better at it during the pandemic.
Denton is hopeful the COVID-19 vaccines will help business go back to normal again. He said the outlook is good, as vaccines become available to everybody in Missouri on April 9.
Micheal Crank Curry, owner of Fingerprint Urban Dance Studio, had a different experience than Denton. Fingerprint Urban Dance Studio is an umbrella business — a dance studio for kids and adults interested in hip hop dancing, as well as a video and media company, that provides DJing services and does concerts and event planning.
Fingerprint Urban Dance Studio closed March 15 of last year, around the time the kids he teaches were home on spring break. After three days of not having class, Curry decided to use Zoom for his classes. He said he was already on Zoom, teaching hip hop dance classes to kids from Los Angeles.
The studio closed for approximately four months. Curry started to have indoor classes, beginning in January.
Curry said his method of teaching through the pandemic was to go half online and half in person, similar to what schools and universities are doing; however, when he reopened, he only had five kids sign up, which was down from 30 kids, causing a significant drop in funds. He said the videography and deejaying side of his business were the only things keeping his business afloat.
Curry said his business had been struggling for a long time, pre-pandemic. He said he did not have any financial help and wasn’t aware at the time of various things, such as PPP loans and grants for new businesses.
“We only had five students; we didn’t have a profit. We were losing money to have class,” he said. “I’m pretty sure our highest reach of debt that we came face-to-face with this past year was $10,000. We were $10,000 under what we were supposed to be to even out our bottom line.”
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Curry said he has had to adjust his business model and come up with new strategies in order to accommodate his students.
“It was really strange because like we had to make a decision on if we wanted to have a large amount of people or did we want to raise the price for the people that were there,” Curry said. “We went with let’s lower the price and get a lot more people in here, that way people get back to the point where they are comfortable with being in a crowd.”
Curry is now focusing on a community-based marketing plan, in which the focus is more on the kids and adults who take his classes and the community he serves, rather than funds.
Southeast alum Brittney Swicionis is persevering through the pandemic as a new business owner. Swicionis purchased an existing franchise business, Board & Brush Cape Girardeau, from the previous owner. Board & Brush is a DIY creative arts studio, where individuals can come and enjoy the fun experience of creating their own wood projects with family and friends.
The previous owner of Board & Brush Cape Girardeau had to close for three months, but Swicionis has stayed open since purchasing it in September.
Swicionis only offers part-time employment, which is how she was able to get by without laying off employees.
She said she was thankful they have seen an increase in profits within the past three months, which she attributes to the vaccine. She said her business’ main clientele are individuals with disposable income, people ranging from their 30s to their 60s and 70s.
Swicionis said the main impact on her business was determining how much leeway she was willing to give regarding customers wearing masks.
“When we first put something out about wearing masks during workshops during the summer, we did get some very nasty Facebook messages, emails, and we’re a small business, we need all the support we can get, but I think that was one of the issues we faced,” Swicionis said.
Swicionis said she hopes as more people get vaccinated, people will value the experience and time together and that 2021 will be their most profitable year.
Swicionis believes COVID-19 pushed business owners, especially small business owners, to think outside of their comfort zone to come up with ways they could improve their business in order to survive the pandemic.