Status Unquo

bulletin board 0620
Right as I was musing about how static and empty our bulletin board has been, KBUT put up two posters. Everything else is weeks old.

The 20th of each month, which seems like it is always around the corner, is when sales tax is due for both the city and the state. I’ve used these tax reports as a metric to track the gross sales for my business month by month, year by year. It doesn’t account for a single expense, but it gives me a top-line view of how the company is doing.

While January was big enough to carry us through March, by April we were running at a 2016 level; after compiling May sales, we are now at a 2013 level. Most of our expenses, of course, are at a 2020 level, offset by private, city and federal assistance, leaving us precisely . . . I don’t know where.

It’s not sustainable, obviously, income plummeting as expenses stay rather flat, but there’s always the thought/hope that this is temporary. What no one can answer is: how long is “temporary”?

Our county health order is set up on a sliding scale through the end of the year. A vaccine is coming any ol’ day/months from now/a year from now/it might not work/be available for everyone. While bleach was only on one table as a cure, other options for treatment wax and wane in popularity. Or screw all this: let’s just get on with our lives, and if people get sick and/or die, well, that’s the way it goes.

Just yesterday, as I went past it, I remarked on how static the bulletin board outside our shop has been. Normally, this time of year, it’s overrun with posters and flyers highlighting coming events. This year there’s been space to spare, until I left last night and noticed two new postings on behalf of Crested Butte’s community radio station. Somehow, they are moving forward with their fish fry later this month.

We got word earlier this week that the annual car show, scheduled for August, has been cancelled — another job we won’t be printing. We’re still sourcing buffs for several customers, and have offered several mask options to a couple of entities that seemed gung-ho but have yet to get back to us. We have some regular customers wanting printing, most of them on a reduced scale and almost none of them with the urgency we are used to dealing with as we roll toward July 4.

To be perfectly honest, I am not missing the stress of our normal high-pitched summer, although a new form of stress inserts itself every time I do something, like sales taxes, that point up how little income we have coming in even as bills keep arriving. On today’s to-do list: apply for more federal assistance.

At a business Zoom a few weeks back, three local owners talked about pivoting, although the discussion was less about a pivot than streamlining. The owner of an eatery with a 50-year history said he and his wife/business partner used the time they were closed down to pare down a sprawling menu.

In the discussion that followed, the owner of a sandwich shop said the same thing, that she was listening to her sister and a 25-year employee to trim down the menu. They have also cut back their operation to four days a week, finding that third day off very helpful for decompression.

A former neighbor who bought a coffee house with her husband in December said being closed made her realize how unsustainable their hours were, seven days a week, 18 — 18! — hours per day. They, too, are taking a more limited approach.

So we are in good company as we contemplate, even involuntarily, the frenetic pace that has driven so many Gunnison businesses prior summers. Income has to be able to cover fairly fixed overhead, but the part I didn’t anticipate, although it ought to seem obvious, is that fluctuating costs like goods aren’t as expensive when you don’t buy as many of them.

When Pandemia began, back in March, my overarching goal was to keep everyone on the payroll. I don’t know how many favors I did anyone, since they would have made more money on unemployment, but with the jobs report showing another 1.5 million Americans out of work this week, for a total of 45 million, more than anticipated, keeping a job still seems like a better long-term strategy.

But, for a second time this year, we have had a wife let us know that our jobs are not nearly good enough for their husbands who held them without complaint for many years before getting married.

Ben, whose wife changed her mind about them leaving town just before he quit his “dead-end” graphic design job at Pat’s, got caught in Pandemia and remained unemployed until a month ago, when he took a job he has already given up ferreting out small animals taking up residence in unwanted places. Soon he will become a hardware clerk. (Despite a notice in the paper that Western was looking for a graphic designer and he knows their brand standards backwards and forwards.)

And now Fortino, married since September, has left us for what his wife is sure is a far more lucrative job working concrete. We worry about that decision, not sure they grasp that the work is seasonal and intermittent (like now, as they wait for a job to start), and wondering how it works when — as he did with us — he calls his new boss to inform him he won’t be coming to work because no one else is available to watch the baby.

We are no longer encouraging James to get married.

Once upon a time I took pride in providing work for as many as 12 people. But then we got an automatic press and cut out a position, and when our college student left a year ago following graduation, we didn’t replace him. One of our guys from Six Points, a facility for developmentally disabled folks, retired after 14 years with us in September, and we turned his assignments over to our other long-term guy from Six Points.

We did replace Ben with Vann, although Daddy Vann’s plan had been to work only four days a week up until kindergarten starts this fall. Gilly voluntarily pared back her hours at the start of May, citing the virus as making her more aware of her age and the other projects she wants time to work on. When Fortino gave notice, we met as a staff now of six and decided we are going to try to cover his assignments with existing personnel and Omar, a high school student back to work for a second summer.

On we plunge into the Great Unknown, our net income yet to rise to a positive number, buttressed by assistance large and small, and hope that we are going about this as smartly as we can. Hopefully that is smart enough.

 

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