Hawaii business owners, pushed past their breaking points, plead with residents: Buy local

Hawaii business owners, pushed past their breaking points, plead with residents: Buy local

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii small business owners rallied at the state Capitol building on Wednesday morning, urging the public to buy local to help them stay afloat amid the pandemic.

Many companies have suffered record shortfalls over the last several months, including Square Barrels, a bar and restaurant in downtown Honolulu that’s seen an 80% drop in revenue.

“We had to throw away a lot of food and we slowly let our employees go one by one because we wanted to keep staff on as long as we possibly could,” said Thomas Ray, Square Barrels co-owner.

Even those extra measures couldn’t prevent Ray from letting go of more than 75% of his employees.

And his story is merely a snapshot of how the pandemic has ravaged the state’s businesses.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce assists many of those companies and organized the rally for entrepreneurs in pure survival mode.

“We are hearing from a lot of small businesses because some of them received the loans, the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and other types of grants, but it runs out,” Chamber of Commerce Hawaii president and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said.

“So there’s only so much Band-Aid approach, so to speak, that will help them through this situation.”

Statistics from the US Department of Treasury show more than 24,000 Hawaii businesses and non-profits received PPP assistance. Yet, even with help, companies are still scraping by.

“On some really good days, we got up to like 30% losses, but I mean really when you think about it, 30% losses in any other time would be pretty devastating,” Via Gelato owner Melissa Bow said.

“We’re just trying to hang in there.”

That’s grim reality of trying to wait out a storm that’s not on track to let up anytime soon.

“If we can still control this and then fight to keep these businesses open, it’s going to give them a lot of hope,” Ray said. “If you shutter again, I don’t know how these businesses are going to have the will to continue to fight for their businesses.”

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