My family’s small business was forced to close due to COVID-19

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that all bars and restaurants would be closing Monday, March 16 due to COVID-19, my heart sank, knowing my family and I would be out of a job.

For a few years now, my family has owned and operated a little breakfast and lunch cafe inside an office building just south of campus on Squirrel Road, where both my parents, my brother and I all worked nearly every day. It’s the type of place where we know all the customers’ names and they know ours.

I had gone into work on that Monday for a typical shift, and we were busier than I expected considering all the rumors I heard the week before of people planning to work from home. Nearly every customer had asked if we planned on closing down because of the virus, and I happily replied, “Nope, we’re here if you guys are.”

Everyone was beyond grateful because they did not want to venture out for lunch time or have to spend extra on delivery. They wished us all well and good health and went back to work.

I had left for the day expecting to be back the next, but I got a text from my brother that proved otherwise. 

A customer had brought down a memo from her bosses announcing that Take-A-Break Cafe will be closed indefinitely effective at 3 p.m. I was confused because we never told anyone we were closing, but it soon became clear to me what was going on.

My brother and dad made calls and wrote emails all afternoon begging to stay open, saying we would be takeout only and asking them to reconsider. They would not.

All four of us have been out of a job for over a week, with no supplemental income. My brother and I have been trying to get my parents signed up for unemployment, but the process is difficult.

Not just my family is affected by this, but our employees and their families are as well. We have four employees who rely on the weekly check that comes from working for us, and since the closure they are also out of a job for the time being.

Since we closed, we have gone back to the cafe to sort food for friends and family or for donation, losing hundreds of dollars in product we expected to sell. 

The closure of bars and restaurants, and soon after all personal care services like hair and nail salons, has affected thousands of people and their families across the country. Even if they don’t have a small business like ours, waitresses, bartenders, nail techs and hair dressers are all struggling financially because of the coronavirus.

My family has savings and a good support system, so we are doing our best to stay afloat during this difficult time, but it’s not easy. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the same. I am hoping that this is only temporary, not just for myself and my family, but for everyone that has been affected by this pandemic in more ways than one.