Katy-area businesses adjust to life amid the coronavirus outbreak

The Sam’s Club grocery line in the Katy area is out the door as social distancing is in effect. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Sam’s Club grocery line in the Katy area is out the door as social distancing is in effect. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Sam’s Club grocery line in the Katy area is out the door as social distancing is in effect. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)

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(Designed by Jose Dennis/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Toasted Yolk is one of many restaurants in the Katy area hurting from the stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments, said Cyril Thomas, the CEO of Arista Groups, which owns the location.

“Business is slower than usual, but we’re riding it out,” Thomas said. “People don’t often think of breakfast and brunch as to-go and delivery options.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, some restaurants have had to come up with creative solutions to maintain sales, such as offering to-go meal kits with groceries in the case of Whiskey Cake. Others, such as Bernie’s Burger Bus, have had to temporarily close in Katy.

“I know we are all hurting; this thing is hitting everyone hard,” said Adam Syed, a co-owner of Katy Vibes, in a Facebook post. “It doesn’t discriminate, and we’ve all seen at least a 50% decrease in sales, if not more.

Patrick Jankowski, the senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, said April 14 he believes the Greater Houston area will see more than 250,000 job losses for March and April alone due to the coronavirus and an energy industry downturn. The Katy Area Economic Development Council could not estimate how many job losses would be in the Katy area as of press time, April 16.


However, good news may be on the horizon for small businesses. Gov. Greg Abbott announced all Texas retailers will be allowed to offer to-go services as of April 24 as part of his plan to reopen the state's economy. More information will be revealed on April 27,

“If we stay focused and help each other we can overcome anything,” said Don McCoy, the president of the Fulshear-Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have been here before, and Texans found new ways to be fruitful. I believe we will come out of this stronger than ever.”

Financial woes

The worst part about canceling Home for the Holidays Spring Gift Market was telling the news to vendors, Stacie Henry said.

Henry owns Home for the Holidays Gift Market—which was going to host its annual spring market in Katy at the Leonard E. Merrell Center on April 4-5—and used to be a vendor herself before promoting events, she said.

“This is so financially devastating for them,” she said. “We’re refunding, but not everyone is. ... I’m not worried about myself; I’m worried about the vendors. ... A vendor told me, ‘We don’t know if we’ll still be in business by Christmas.’”

Professional services are also experiencing a slowdown, said Alex Hunt, a family law and estate planning attorney with Katy-area Hunt Law Firm PLLC. He said there may be some hesitation in taking action for major life decisions due to the stay-at-home orders and financial uncertainty.

The effect of COVID-19 is also being felt in the local real estate industry, said Tim Sojka, a Realtor and the owner of See Tim Sell Property Group.

Gaining loans from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to help businesses through the pandemic was not a smooth or easy process initially, Thomas said.

He talked to three banks before one of them would approve his loan applications. He said businesses must have a relationship with a bank to have a chance at getting a loan. To make things more difficult, the forms and requirements changed daily.

“We’re holding our breath on what to do next,” he said.

Helping out

Many local organizations are finding ways to help businesses in the Katy area get through COVID-19.

The Katy EDC, Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fulshear-Katy Area Chamber of Commerce are hosting materials, training sessions and Facebook groups for businesses to obtain assistance for retaining customers and applying for financial assistance under the CARES Act.

“Being an optimist and a cheerleader for local businesses, I anticipate that the Katy area will rally and rebound and that our residents will do everything they can to get our local economy back on solid ground,” said Rick Ellis, vice president of the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce.

Several Facebook groups, including Katy Food To Go During COVID-19 and the Katy/Fort Bend Foodies, are offering a platform for restaurateurs to post updates about their establishments and residents to ask for recommendations.

Many eateries are also giving back during the hard times. Toasted Yolk is putting together and donating breakfast taco trays once a week for health care workers at two Memorial Hermann locations in Katy, Thomas said. He estimates each tray delivered is an approximate $150 donation.

Business law attorney Michael Burg, who is also president of the Katy Bar Association, said his commercial landlord clients are being proactive with their tenants to work through the tough times.

“They’re saying, ‘We’re here to work with you,’” Burg said. “The landlords don’t want empty space, whether you’re a dentist, a doctor or a pizza shop. They want you there.”

Sojka stressed now is an important time for businesses to connect with existing and future customers.

“The most important question any industry can ask right now is, ‘What can we do to help you?’” he said.

Additional reporting by Danica Smithwick.

Jen Para - Nola Z. Valente



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