Small businesses continue to struggle, close during pandemic

The doors to the Red Poppy Cafe, a Georgetown favorite, will remain closed. The only time the doors are unlocked now is when cafe owner Lisa Hoekstra is packing.

"It is kind of like losing part of yourself,” said Hoekstra. 

The Red Poppy Cafe has been part of the Georgetown Library for about 15 years. Her ten year anniversary made headlines in the town paper, and Hoekstra was looking forward to celebrating two decades until COVID-19 hit. "There's a bunch of us that are not going to make it, I held it as long as I could,” said Hoekstra.

Using the patio and curbside service was not enough. "My client base was mostly retired Sun City people and people working in offices in the city and they are all working from home now,” said Hoekstra.

As Hoekstra packed up, some regular customers came by to help move boxes. "I love you, God bless you, there is no mistake I'm driving by today, I wanted to see you, I'm sorry for your loss,” said a friend named Fran.

Hoekstra is not alone. A recent study by the online marketing website Yelp showed almost 164,000 businesses on its site have closed since the pandemic hit the United States. The closure rate was a 23% increase over July. Almost 98,000 are closed permanently.

Hoekstra blames her demise on the initial government shutdown and the media. "I could have survived if people were not so scared to go anywhere,” said Hoekstra.


Along with the loss, there has been a  rebound. In its third-quarter review of 2020,  Yelp noted, when states like Texas were reopening, some business owners were rebooting by re-inventing. Several new types of openings, according to Yelp, are open-air services like food trucks, farmer's markets, pop-up restaurants, and seafood markets.

Catering is also hot, especially cupcakes, custom cakes, and desserts. 

 Juliet Mossman is giving it a go, she is opening a cafe on the town square. "I'm surviving day by day,” said Mossman.

She was buying some of the equipment from the Red Poppy Cafe. She says she is hoping that she will be the next Red Poppy. "No, no I'm not ... I'm going to pivot and do what it takes,” said Mossman.

But for Lise Hoekstra, there will be no chance to adapt. "I was wanting to do that, but the city decided they were going to put it back open for bid,” said Hoekstra. 

While the rebid decision added insult to injury Hoekstra took it in stride. She may still try to adapt, later. She is thinking about opening a small greenhouse and plant nursery.

A sale of equipment from the Red Poppy Cafe will take place through Friday, between 11 and 1 o’clock at the Georgetown Library.