While many businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic are seeing stronger sales that are close to or comparable to 2019 levels, some owners say the effects linger, along with new challenges.
Kari Seher, owner of Melt Ice Creams, has experienced the ups and downs of the pandemic. Right now, her stores are busy because she calls it “the perfect season” for ice cream.
Since opening in 2014, Melt Ice Creams has expanded to four stores in North Texas.
“I started making it at home, in my kitchen, and then I started telling my neighbors to make this ice cream and let them taste it. They were like, you really should open a store,” recalls Seher.
While Seher said most of their stores are back to 2019 sales levels, the recovery has not come without challenges.
“In our 8.5 years in business, we have only increased our prices twice. We raised our prices just recently in January, but we’re seeing our costs go up about 8%,” she said. “We are doing our best to mitigate this, but there is a cap within which a customer wants to pay. They don’t want to pay more money, so we are kind of in a rush.
To avoid raising prices further, Seher said their company is trying things like buying more ingredients in bulk and being careful how they spend their money. Sometimes they have to consider giving up certain products that have become too expensive, she said.
“If we buy a certain cup that comes from far away, then it has to come by truck to get here, that gas cost, it’s all included in the cost of that product,” she said. “We really don’t want to impose that cost on our customers, and we hope it balances out. There may be a time when we have to raise these prices, but we don’t want to. »
When it comes to finding balance in recovery, Seher is far from alone.
Tarrant County is weeks away from launching a new grant program aimed at helping small businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic. County commissioners have allocated $25 million in federal funding to help small businesses.
Tarrant County deputy administrator Lisa McMillan said she is focusing specifically on workforce recovery efforts, including retention, recruiting, training and development.
“We expect the $25 million awarded by the County Commissioners Court to go quickly,” McMillan said. “The pay scale has increased. Some people want to offer bonuses, signing bonuses so that those funds can be used for any of those types of labor needs.
Affected small businesses that had 50 or fewer employees in the first quarter of 2020 can apply for grants of up to $27,500 depending on eligibility criteria and number of employees.
While Seher said owners of small businesses like hers are thinking about how they spend their money, she asks the community to do the same.
“If there’s a coffee you like, it’s your coffee. Spend your money there rather than going to a big company. Spend your money in an ice cream shop, where we know the people behind the counter,” she said. “You never know, if you’re not supporting them, and maybe your neighbor isn’t supporting them, maybe that’s not the boost you need. need to get through this season.”
Applications for the new grant program through Tarrant County will open at noon on July 11. The application deadline is 5 p.m. on August 31, or when funds are exhausted.
Requests will be processed in the order in which they are received.