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Southern Nevada small-business owners fighting for survival

Updated April 7, 2020 - 12:16 pm

These are scary times for Stephen Maynard, Tara Gilbert and their eight part-time employees at the Sunshine & Tailwinds Cafe in North Las Vegas.

Maynard and Gilbert opened the cafe at the North Las Vegas Airport in June 2016. The business partners were realizing significant success, serving more than 70 meals a day to pilots, regular customers and airport employees, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March.

Now they are fighting for the survival of the business, after revenues nosedived to zero overnight.

“We’ve had to just close up and ride this out,” Maynard said, adding “it’s a hard hit.”

“I’m broke,” Maynard said. “It has definitely threatened our business.”

This refrain is being repeated at restaurants and other small businesses across the Las Vegas Valley as the Silver State continues to implement a stay-at-home order. Schools and casinos are closed, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, and the state’s unemployment ranks have swelled, with an astonishing 250,000 claims processed by the state. Restaurateurs said this week they and their employees are suffering significantly because of the loss of income, prompting layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours for employees who were living paycheck to paycheck even before the COVID-19 crisis.

“All my employees other than three are still working to some degree,” said Michael Weiss, who co-owns the Weiss Restaurant Deli Bakery on North Green Valley Parkway in Henderson with his wife, Aysegul.

“Most of my kitchen staff are working about half the hours they normally do, the girls in the deli same thing,” he said. “We actually have the bussers doing some other work right now. We are doing some repair work and painting patchwork.”

Revenue off 35 percent

The Weiss family business was booming before the shut down, with customers showing up in droves for the matzo ball soup, chopped liver, and corned beef pastrami brisket. Revenues are down 65 percent since the shutdown, and the business is now reliant strictly on takeout and curbside business. Workers are preparing a third to half as much food as before.

“We are going to struggle through this month,” Weiss said. “Beyond this month, if we don’t qualify for that stimulus package they are talking about for small business, I don’t know what is going to happen in May. I can’t give you an honest answer.”

Revenues are down a staggering 90 percent at the Griddlecakes restaurant on Fort Apache Road in northwest Las Vegas since the shutdown order. Like the other owners, Griddlecakes owner Hamed Emamzadeh said he is doing everything possible to protect his employees.

“We are a family business, and we treat our staff as such,” said Emamzadeh, who was born and raised in Las Vegas and brought up in his family’s restaurant business.

“We’ve had to shorten their hours a bit and we have to kind of rotate staff, with one person up front and one person in back, to make sure everyone is getting income when they can,” Emamzadeh said.

Maynard and Gilbert — along with Weiss — are planning to apply for assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) which will provide fiscal relief for small businesses that qualify. The restaurant owners said they are still learning the particulars of how to even apply. Maynard was pleased to learn the loans are forgivable if the restaurant meets certain requirements, like using the money to retain employees.

“We’ve had some really great employees that we’ve had for a long, long time,” Gilbert said. “Thank God they are waiting for us to get back in business.”

Restaurants aren’t alone when it comes to enduring the misery, either. Cheryl Ross is the owner of A#1 Document Services, LLC, which performs notary services, tax and bookkeeping services and offers virtual mailboxes to Southern Nevada restaurants. She said she has a team of six mobile notaries, but none are working because of the stay-at-home order in Nevada.

Notaries ‘on lockdown’

“We are all on lockdown,” Ross said. “In the meantime, my notaries have all chosen to self-quarantine because it is better to be safe than sorry.”

“The notary business is dead — it is shut down right now completely,” Ross said.

She said she is applying for financial relief through the CARES Act.

“The application that I did that I found online, it was extremely easy,” Ross said.

She said she’s seen a slight uptick in demand for her tax services. Demand for her mailbox services has remained about the same.

Chris Larotonda is a retired North Las Vegas officer who started what has become a very successful photography business with his wife, Debra. Photos by Larotonda has seen heavy demand for several years now, particularly for wedding photography and producing portrait images.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We are completely shut down,” Chris Larotonda said. “We have no more business. The weddings that we have planned have either moved the dates, canceled or moved them to the point where they don’t have a date.”

Chris Larotonda said there’s really not a lot the business can do other than “weather the storm.”

“Right now we are pushing our business toward internet sales of photographs we have taken from different parts of the world, art you can put on walls, etc.,” he said. “Quite frankly there isn’t any business to be had as far as portraiture. All the wedding venues are closed. If it took two months to get here, it is probably going to take a couple of months get to the other side.”

Maynard said the end of the shutdown can’t come soon enough. However, he was not critical of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order, saying he appreciates the governor looking out for the health of the state’s residents.

“I want him to know we are on his side,” Maynard said. “We want this virus to go away, and we want to get back open. In reality, I think this is the best thing, considering what is going on.”

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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