HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jorge Leon has sold baked goods at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet since he moved to Hawaii from Venezuela more than two decades ago.
The small businessman is one of hundreds of vendors impacted by the two-month shutdown of the swap meet, which started Wednesday.
“Now I have zero income. I don’t know who can help me. I don’t know where to go. At this point, we’re just in the air," he said.
“I have a family, I have a brand new baby, I have two daughters and two boys. Right now it’s kind of tough for us.”
Jason Vuong’s family has sold souvenirs at the swap meet ever since it opened.
“It’s going to hurt them," he said.
"And financially they might not be able to pay rent and stuff.”
But even before the shutdown, businesses here have been reeling.
On a typical day, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet attracts anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 people. But vendors said that since the coronavirus scare hit, traffic has been down 95%.
The stadium authority said the two-month closure is based on social distancing protocols established by the CDC and the state Health Department.
“They say two months. Hopefully it will be less than that or else we will be in bankruptcy,” said Patrick Nguyen, a longtime swap meet vendor.
The swap meet vendors aren’t alone. Small businesses throughout Hawaii say the virus is taking a heavy toll on their companies.
And unlike typical workers who get laid off, small business owners usually can’t collect unemployment when they shut down.
“If this thing continues too long, restaurants will be closing, people are just going to skip, file bankruptcy,” said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business & Community Association.
“What can you do?”
Vendors said they hope the federal government and the state will provide low interest loans and other financial aid to help them weather the storm.