With little hope for a Main Street bailout, small businesses turn to customers for help

Updated: Apr. 20, 2020 at 5:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The future is bleak for many of Hawaii’s small businesses.

They’re desperately waiting for help from the government — and facing permanent closures.

So they’re asking the community for help.

Longtime cheesecake bakery owner, Otto of Otto Cake, put the word out on social media Friday that his business was on the verge of collapsing. Since then, the community has responded — slice by slice.

On Monday, a line of customers waited outside Otto Cake in Kaimuki, social distancing for a small indulgence.

“My heart went out. I haven’t received unemployment yet, but I did receive a stimulus check so I wanted to come out support and I love his cheesecake,” said Shanae Kamakawiwoole, a fan of Otto Cake.

It’s why Otto Cake has been serving these sweet treats for 30 years, but Otto says his loan application for federal stimulus funds was denied and he’s still waiting for word on another application.

"I'm not going to get my hopes up on anything. I'm just going to try to do it myself because I started this DIY," he said.

Now he’s turning to online fundraising and calls the support “amazing.”

"I haven't paid my rent for my house. I have not paid the bakery rent either. With this infusion, I'll be able to go to Costco to make more because I really was at the end of not being able to make more cake,' he said.

Gov. David Ige says more than 11,000 small businesses in Hawaii who employed 170,000 people were approved $2.2 billion in forgivable federal loans.

Aloha Poke Shop on Bishop Street says it wasn't one of those businesses.

It closed its doors and owner Jeff Sampson says he can only pay his dozen employees two more pay checks since his federal loan applications were denied.

“It’s kinda like, you know, wow. What else can happen when you know other people have gotten it?” he said.

On Monday morning, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation started offering small businesses with three to 20 employees $5,000 grants, but a message popped up saying the site was “experiencing technical difficulties.”

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