Small businesses owners look for safe middle ground to reopen their livelihoods

SEATTLE -- A small business owner who was ordered to close his business nearly a month ago is looking forward to a safe middle ground to open back up.

Frank Gross is the owner of Thunder Road Guitars in West Seattle.

Gross laid off six employees. He’s earning half his income through online sales.

“It kind of feels like you’re in the Twilight Zone a little bit,” said Gross. “We get emails and phone calls every day with customers wanting to visit our shop and help anyway that they can.” 

Gross isn’t sure when his music shop will be able to open back up to the public, but he knows it’s going to be a gradual process. 

“I’m optimistic, but I’m realistic as well and I think this is going to take a little bit of time,” said Gross. “We’re trying to prepare for this potentially being longer than a month or several months, and what it’s going to look like for our business and our family and how we operate.”

Governor Jay Inslee’s plan will prepare restaurants, main street businesses and manufacturers that are critical to local economies and paying living wages to be able to meet the new safety standards before they open.

It’s also very possible that the state can loosen and tighten restrictions to prevent another outbreak. 

Lora Radford works with small business owners in the West Seattle Junction Business Improvement Area, including Thunder Road Guitars.

“I think the days of bringing people together in large groups is going to be over for quite some time,” said Radford. “The businesses who are going to survive this are going to be the ones who are going to be able to pivot and innovate and lean into whatever we call this new normal.”

Radford said moving forward it will prove to be an opportunity for business owners to drive and craft what that new normal will mean in our communities.

For Frank, that means getting through the pandemic as whole as he can.

“Do everything you can right now to ensure you have a business. You kind of adapt or you die, right, so we’re trying to adapt," he says.

The governor says the recovery of Washington state will be gradual, data-driven and health-focused.

The safe, healthy path back to normal requires more testing, contact tracing capabilities, PPE for everyone who needs it, adequate capacity in our hospitals and a vaccine, according to the governor’s office.