Along with small businesses all over the country, Wild Oats applied for a low-interest loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. After filing the paperwork with our bank and waiting anxiously for several weeks, we recently received notice from the SBA that our loan had been approved. A few days later we received the funds–enough to cover eight weeks of payroll and some other operating expenses–and were greatly relieved.
The rapid onset of the Covid pandemic created many challenges and uncertainties for all of us, including the co-op itself. After having to close the self-serve hot and salad bars, our Deli business dropped by nearly 80% almost overnight. Storewide, the number of customers we serve each day fell by half. The availability of a healthy staff and the reliability of our supply networks were both in question. We began developing contingency plans, not sure what a spring without college students and a summer without seasonal visitors would mean for our cash flow.
Fortunately, the worst has not come to pass. Our curbside business has been brisk, we’ve largely been able to keep products in stock, and our staff has remained healthy. Through job reassignments, we have been able to keep most of our employees busy, and they have generally been able and willing to come to work. That’s a win-win, since to the extent that we are able to maintain our staffing at pre-pandemic levels, a portion of the SBA loan may not need to be paid back. Like many essential businesses, we rely on employees who put themselves on the line every day, and to their credit, they have risen to the occasion. This is no small thing, and in recognition we plan to continue for the time being supplementing workers’ pay with a two-dollar hourly premium.
Ten weeks into the State of Emergency, what lies ahead is still largely unknown. Travel restrictions, a looming recession, and a string of announcements from local cultural institutions canceling their summer schedules mean more financial uncertainty lies ahead. We are grateful for the ongoing support of the community, and we will do our best to continue serving our customers whatever the future may hold.