Owners of small businesses share struggles


Five business owners didn’t hesitate to share when I asked how life has changed with their livelihoods. If they represent other business owners, we can look forward to better times. During the conversations I had to remind myself to breathe. They discuss the leadership and creativity needed to move forward. We can be proud that they are our community. The following are excerpts from those interviews. 

Judah Garfinkle
Garfinkle Orthodontics  

One day we were working, and the next I had to cancel more than 600 appointments and furlough the best team in the world. I felt stomach punched and experienced anxiety and panic as well as mood swings. While I got to sleep in, run with my wife and play with my kids, I felt totally out of control, living levels of uncertainty that threatened the foundation of my life. 
The following eight weeks were spent figuring out how to pause then restart my business. There was no certain counsel or playbook. I went to bed and woke up with a myriad of acronyms (PPP, PPE, CDC, OHA) swirling in my head. I instituted virtual care options and organized family game nights. 
Now back in the office, I am grateful to have my team again doing the work we love. The opportunity to fulfill our vision of crafting smiles that elevate the spirit is powerful and cannot be covered up by the mask we now ask patients to wear as they come into the office. 

Jen Singer, principal broker
Keller Williams Realty

Spending more time together has allowed my husband and me to have a greater respect for each other’s careers. Being with our daughter full time has allowed us to see what really makes her tick. 
Selling homes during this time has been interesting. Initially, I worried that it would slow down. But babies are born, kids graduate from school and people need bigger houses to accommodate home offices. My phone never stopped ringing with requests to buy or sell homes. Changing how we do it has been like drinking from a fire hose as we tackle virtual or touchless open houses and virtual listing appointments and showings. Everything I learned over the past 17 years changed overnight. 
I am working more than ever but doing it from the comfort of my home with my family nearby. Thankfully interest rates and inventory are low, so we are confident that the housing market is stable. The words virtual, social distancing and masks are now just part of our vocabulary.  

Uri Kushner
Dairy Hill Ice Cream 

I laid off seven employees on March 16. 
I am filled with inner conflicts over reopening my Hillsdale location on May 21. Being married to a health care professional, I want to honor what is truly essential. It is important not to clog the system. But I recognize the need for people to get out and safely enjoy a treat to boost morale and enjoy something familiar like ice cream. 
We offer curbside service 3-9 pm, Thursday through Sundays. We ask customers to use contactless payment, by ordering and paying on our website or by phone. Most people understand, but some say it’s too much trouble. I wish more customers wore masks. Folks seem to be getting more lax with masks and staying 6 feet from others. 
It has been heartwarming to receive messages of support from the community. Hillsdale has always shown love and support for small business and we feel it now more than ever.
As for Dairy Hill Ice Cream in Pioneer Place, I just have no idea. Will it be safe to have a kiosk space in the middle of a food hall again or anytime soon?  

Josh Oller 
Silver Lining Jewelry & Loan 

Silver Lining is a State Licensed Pawnshop and my employees unanimously agreed we needed to stay open. We stayed open to ensure that our customers can borrow the funds they need to get them through these hard times. And we reassured our clients that our business is not going anywhere and that their items are safe.  
Initially we thought pawnshops would be busy with people getting new loans since our unemployment system completely failed, but that was not the case. Instead we saw a panic of our customers picking up their items for the fear that something might happen to the business and they would lose their item. They used the stimulus money to redeem their property instead of using it to buy necessities. This was not just an occurrence in Oregon but across the United States. 
We limited the customers to two at a time to maintain social distancing, and all employees wear masks and gloves. We installed Plexiglas on our counter windows. I can see the mental exhaustion in my employees. 
I am responsible to protect my employees, my customers and my business. 

Max Barenberg
Blackboard Music 

I bought Blackboard Music in 2015. No one expects his or her business to dry up overnight. Blackboard provides DJ’s, sound and light packages for events, specializing in student events. I have had one event in May – playing music for the Lake Oswego High School drive-through graduation. COVID-19 has severely impacted the entire events industry. 
We have had 34 weddings, proms, b’nai mitzvot and corporate events canceled or rescheduled. We have returned all deposits for events through August, and I anticipate large gatherings will be prohibited far beyond then. 
Because my business relies on large gatherings, I’ll only work with venues, clients and vendors that treat safety with the seriousness it deserves. 
While celebrating together isn’t necessary for survival, the last few months have made us realize how good it feels to gather with friends and how much we miss it. Once we have a vaccine, people will be looking to party harder than they ever have before. I hope when that day comes, they give me a call. I will need to do something else for work for a while, until events come back.


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