New businesses face unique struggles amid outbreak

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Recently opened businesses in Grand Rapids say they’ve been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only was it a dream but I’ve put a lot of money into this place and that’s money I’ve worked for the last 20 years and it’s gone,” said 
Al Casimiro, owner of BOLD Cigar bar and lounge.

The BOLD Cigar Lounge is located on Fulton Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. Casimiro said he spent weeks renovating the space and more than $100,000 of his savings.

Just two days after they held their grand opening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the statewide stay at home order forcing them to close.

“I’m just going through that ‘I don’t know phase’. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to stay open. I may have to make a choice to walk away,” said Casimiro of his business.

He says he applied for a PPP loan but still hasn’t heard back. Now he’s trying to balance living expenses, paying his newly hired employees and the thousands of dollars worth of bills that come with a business.

“The landlord has been working with us, but they want to get paid. Everyone wants to get paid,” Casimiro said. 

Casimiro also owns a dog training business. He says between the two, he has probably lost about $60,000 in business. Other small businesses in the area say things have been tough for them too. 

“We’ve done our best to reduce our expenses through this time, but we still have significant operational expenses, including five leases,” said Chris Reinbold with Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse.

Funky Buddha Yoga has locations in Grand Rapids, Holland and Forest Hills.

Before the stay at home order, they had just opened the doors to the fifth location at Studio C in downtown Grand Rapids. They closed all locations and have been only offering classes online that are free of charge.

“No one plans in their projections for their revenue just to go to zero,”  Reinbold said.

Both business owners say as each day passes with no revenue coming in, their businesses are on the line. They say they’re hopeful things will turn around.

“I’m going to do my best. I’m not going to give up very easily,” Casimiro said.

The BOLD Cigar lounge owner says at the end of the stay at home order, they hope to host another grand opening. 

Those at Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse say they’re hoping they can maintain its customer base despite the social distancing and fear that will likely still be in place after things get back to normal.