Stevens County small businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures

RaeLynn Ricarte

Find the full story in the March 25 issue of the Statesman-Examiner. Story & photos by RaeLynn Ricarte:

Mr. Sub in Colville has been in business long enough to weather the financial storm caused by “social distancing” mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19, says owner Elaine Maddox.
She said the shop established 32 years ago was already a take-out and delivery service, so it is managing better than pubs and restaurants that rely solely on dining room traffic.
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee decreed at least a two-week closure of pubs and restaurants to prevent people from gathering.
“It’s hitting everyone but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be for us,” said Maddox.
She said the biggest drop in revenue has come from the halt in deliveries to schools and sports lunches. However, none of Mr. Sub’s five employees has been laid off. Maddox has even added a mini-mart to help community members stock up on hamburger, chicken breasts, milk, eggs and other necessities they can’t find at grocery stores.
The decision to add items to the refrigerator section of the shop at 825 South Main Street was made, said Maddox, after a young mother she knows was reduced to tears by not being able to get essentials for her three children. “I sat there and pondered it and then I realized I had the resources to get those things,” she said.
She contacted their suppliers and asked to add the extra items to their delivery list. There are also toilet paper and paper towels available at Mr. Sub, although Maddox keeps them in a backroom. She said people can request these goods in moderation — no hoarding is allowed.
“This community has been here for us, so if I can give back a little bit, that’s what I need to do,” said Maddox.
Mr. Sub can be reached for orders at 509-684-5887.
Things are a lot tougher financially for new owners of the Pour House and Coffee Shoppe in Colville, and Monica’s Buttermilk Kitchen in Chewelah.
“I was sure surprised [by Inslee edict], I didn’t know if it would be a constitutional thing to do,” said April Wenzel, who has co-owned the Pour House with husband, Jason, since last summer.
“We haven’t had enough time to build up an emergency fund,” she said. “We knew buying was a risk and we might end up running the business with no employees, but we never dreamed of being shut down with to-go only.”
The Wenzels laid off four employees and are running the establishment at 202 South Main Street by themselves. To make the situation even more complex, their 5-year-old daughter, Claire, is out of school and they are juggling their schedule to make sure she is still learning. They also have two other children to care for.
Jason is a contractor so the family still has an income to rely on — at least as long as the building trade stays healthy.
“You just constantly have a stressful feeling,” said April. “We are doing everything we can to keep the lights on and pay the bills.”
She has created new take-out menus and reduced hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Live music and special events have been canceled.
If customers aren’t comfortable coming in to order food, Wenzel said an order will be brought out to their car.
“They can call it in and we can meet them out there,” she said. “It’s been slow and we really appreciate everyone who is supporting us.”
Across Main Street, the Coffee Shoppe is also struggling with owner Shelby Hotchkiss having opened the doors only a year ago.
“I was really surprised the state would take away another food source when people were having trouble getting groceries,” she said.
Like the Pour House, Hotchkiss is willing to package any order for take-out, but she is also delivering sandwiches, homemade desserts, coffees or anything else someone wants to order.
The bulk of her business came from regular orders by educators and employees of Hewescraft, which has shut down operations for one month, beginning March 20.
As a result of these losses and a lack of foot traffic, Hotchkiss has laid off three employees.
“I can weather this for a few weeks, but since it began before we even had a local case, are they going to extend it? Because that’s going to be a problem,” she said.
The Coffee Shoppe is located at 119 East Astor Avenue can be reached for at 509-684-8116. Hours are 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Also new on Main Street in Chewelah is Monica’s Buttermilk Kitchen, owned and operated by Monica Jo Traaen-Anderson.
“We’re down 80% in sales, if not a little more,” she said.
Traaen-Anderson never anticipated when she opened a year ago that she would be forced to limit orders to take-out only.
“I really didn’t think it was going to hit Chewelah,” she said of the “social distancing” mandate.
She has laid off two workers revised her menu to meet the current need. The business is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
“If people don’t support us through this, we aren’t going to be here when it’s over,” she said.