Community Impact Newspaper spoke with several local business owners to see how they are adapting, seeking out resources and holding onto customers amid the outbreak.

Dance House Fitness shifts online, waits for loans to come in

Dance House Fitness co-owners Jenny Sanchez and Christian Bianchi have extra motivation to offer classes online.

“We have always considered expanding to online classes and even streaming from in the studio, and we plan on carrying that into our normal business module now,” Sanchez said “But this was definitely a push for us to take that leap.”

The studio, which started in Montrose and expanded to the Heights, now offers free three-day trials and a $40 subscription for unlimited classes. Some are offered live, led by the studio’s two full-time instructors, as well as on-demand. With most of DHF’s instructors working part time as a side gig, Sanchez said they have been able to hang on to their two full-time employees but the online offerings can only do so much.

“We’re not anywhere near close to where our business is at normally,” she said.

Sanchez and Bianchi applied for several small business loan and grant programs but have not yet received any funds. Sanchez said she hopes a second round of federal funding will make its way to their applications and keep them afloat until clients can come back.

“Obviously everyone misses the in-studio interaction, but they are thankful that they can still take the online classes and feel inspired and empowered,” she said.

Nick's Plumbing hopes for the best, prepares for the worst

The Heights-area business has been around 40 years, growing from two service trucks to 18 and covering a wider area, and owner Richard Saad said the team that has been built over the years is too important to let go.

“I’m going to go down with the ship if it goes down. There’s people I can’t replace,” he said.

Business has been stable so far, but it is hard to predict what could come over the next few months as the economic fallout hits more of his customers, he said.

“Virus or no virus, if they don’t open in the next month, there will be a lot of issues. Our destiny now is going to depend on what the local government vs. state vs. feds do,” he said.

He has received confirmation from Comerica Bank that he will be able to receive Paycheck Protection Program funding, though it’s not clear when. He said he owes this feat to his banking relationships—and his bookkeeper.

“There’s no way I could’ve done this without her; it’s impossible. You have to deduct this, add this. It’s a process. Even being a finance guy myself, I could not have gotten through it,” Saad said.

Even so, he recommends every owner look at applying for the SBA loan programs.

“It makes sense for everyone to do it because the rate is so low, so even if you’re healthy now ... you have to really look at it month to month,” he said.

The Pure Parenting Shop's customers become a lifeline

Sarah Godwin is no stranger to calamity.

She founded her store, specializing in natural parenting products, in Pennsylvania, but brought it to the Heights four years ago after her husband was laid off and sought out new opportunities here.

Despite the business suffering a fire and two floods, the coronavirus outbreak was the real gut-check moment for her.

“It was one of those moments where I had to ask myself, do I really want to deal with this any more? This is exhausting,” she said. “I’ve gone through the phases of grief with it. This was going to be such a great year for us.”

The newly renovated store, now with a classroom space for rent, has been offering delivery service throughout Houston and serves some far-flung customers throughout the region. She said she is also using her supply networks to get access to products that can be hard to find because of shortages, from N95 masks to cleaning supplies. Some of her customers are doulas and midwives who need medical-grade materials.

Despite the efforts, sales are down considerably. She is not paying herself, and her two employees have agreed to pay cuts rather than take unemployment. She has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and will be among the many waiting for new funds to become available.

“I’m looking at loss of income—but not loss of life; I can’t imagine that,” she said.