On Account

coal creek 0520

Yesterday I added two new accounts to the company books. One of them, which I called “covid-19,” is an expense account, and my first entry in it was for what looks like a fifth of gin but is billed as hand sanitizer by the local company that produced it, Coal Creek Distillery.

I don’t believe I was aware of Coal Creek Distillery, which must be in Crested Butte because that’s where Coal Creek runs. I knew of Montanya Rum Distillery, and I believe they are or were making a sanitizer, but the owner of that company wasn’t billing it for personal use because she wasn’t sure humans should be putting it on their skin. I have no idea if Coal Creek’s is a similar product without the same caution, but I spent money on it and decided I wanted to put it in a special category, rather than just “store supplies.”

That’s because I feel this is going to be the first of several items we have to spend money on, in this Year of No Money, specifically on account of the virus. Germaphobe that I am, we always have sanitizer on hand, but not usually in whiskey-sized proportions.

Retail stores are allowed to open in a limited capacity as of today, although Pat’s is leaving its door locked until sometime next week. That’s because I still need to spend money to get ready: a piece of plexiglass that Kara’s husband is going to install at our retail counter, and a couple of tension rods from which to hang plastic, demarcating space between customers and employees.

(The plastic itself is free, a parting gift from the original Miller Furniture store. One man’s trash, and all that: we take the plastic that once encased sofas and mattresses, cut it up and clean screens on it, then throw it away. So it still ends up in the landfill, but at least it served one more purpose along the way. And now maybe it will help stop the spread of germs.)

Our steamer is on order; at the retail Zoom on Tuesday another clothing-store owner said her plan is to steam all clothing tried on but not purchased by customers. That’s what I’ve been doing to clean my own face coverings, hauling them into the steam shower with me. I like to think it’s doing something, although I don’t know for sure.

While we plan to require everyone entering the building to wear face covering, we are not yet planning to offer free facewear. We do have bandanas and some custom Gilly-made masks available for purchase, so a would-be customer with a naked face will be given two choices: not enter the building, or purchase one of our options. And any ol’ day now our “Gunnison Strong” buffs will arrive. Something got bottled up somewhere in shipping, which I doubt is going to be the last time we hear that.

While everything so far about this virus has been out-go for Pat’s Screen Printing, I optimistically created a second account, placed under income, called “covid assistance.” As of yet, I have nothing to place in it, other than hope.

I faxed off my first request for ERC funds last week. I spent money to do this at Paper Clip, rather than relying on our hit-and-miss fax machine (oh, another expense: laminated signs outlining the safety protocols for employee and customer alike), to make sure it got to the IRS, the very same agency tasked with sending out stimulus checks that my Post Office contact says are “trickling” in, tiny handfuls each day. That’s cause for optimism, hm?

In addition to this federal we-hope-it’s-assistance program, I have been applying, or more correctly, trying to apply, for grants anywhere and everywhere I find them. So far, this has been a mostly unsuccessful venture, shut out of options such as the Economic Impact Disaster Loan (a loan that offers a few thousand that don’t have to be paid back) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose giveaway resulted in a crash and burn of the website within minutes of its opening, one million or more dollars claimed in an instant by companies not Pat’s.

Some places are trying a more measured approach, so we can still hold out hope for the grants like the $10,000 on offer from Hello Alice, of which I’m now a member even though I’m still not 100 percent sure what exactly their service is (mentorship mostly, I think). I’m shamelessly exploiting my staff, particularly Kara, because lots of these places want to help women- and minority-owned businesses.

Every time I sign up for a grant, I put Kara’s name on it. I invoke Gilly’s status as an immigrant, even though she’s on her 26th or 27th year in the Gunnison Valley. I tout, if the option is there, the hues of James’ and Fortino’s skin. Jeff’s affiliation with Six Points, for those with developmental disabilities. Even though he’s no longer in our employ, I at least once mentioned Ben’s Jewish faith in an application.

We didn’t plan it, but we are fairly diverse, especially here in whitebread Gunnison, and now I’m being completely shameless in exploiting it. It hasn’t turned up one red cent yet, and maybe there’s a lesson in there, but I think the lesson really is: there’s a lot less money than need.

I’m not talking about need like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (which is, I’ve always thought, an extremely clunky name), which for some reason thought it needed a $20 million PPP government giveaway despite having $87 million cash on hand — I’m talking about scrambling so frenetically for $5,000 because it will buy an entire week of operating funds.

Yesterday I wondered idly about applying for the county’s new loan fund, loans of $7,500 at 1.35% interest with the potential to keep 10 percent — but that money was gone in about an hour. (The county still needs to explain why it set out only one-third of the $615,000 it announced a week ago it was setting aside for assistance, but maybe they’re making provision for other programs. As the newspaper noted yesterday, the county has not excelled at communication in this crisis.)

The City of Gunnison is offering grants of up to $5,000, first qualified comers first served. They set the application period from 1 p.m. today through the end of the month, suggesting they maybe still aren’t grasping scale. That money is liable to be gone by 2 p.m.

We at Pat’s are honing our concert-ticket approach. The application itself has not been made public, although we’ve been given a list of required paperwork. We will have all that ready to go in one e-mail file this morning, and at least three of us will start trying to apply on different computers, preferably at completely different sites, at 1 p.m.

Sometimes, like about every couple of hours, the absurdity of all this strikes me, and I wonder what I’m doing, scrabbling like Kara’s chickens in the dirt for a few wilted leaves of cabbage. And then I look at the financials the city wants from me and see the payroll figures that look very similar to last year’s despite the dwindling in our bank accounts.

When Pat was sick with cancer and our friend Bob had little money and nowhere to go with his sign business, Pat said plaintively, “I just want us all to be together.” Two decades and lifetimes later, that is what I still want: us all to be together. And if that means applying myself to apply for ourselves, then that’s what I’m going to do.

I would just like to note for you here — had I been thinking more clearly when I started this, and felt a trifle more clever these days, I should have mentioned it sooner — that when pirates took to the high seas to hunt for treasure, they were said to be going “on account.” On account of they needed more money, I guess. That’s your historical tidbit for the day.


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