LOS ANGELES – Mom and pop shops are the backbone of the L.A. economy, but when COVID-19 hit, retailers deemed nonessential had to close. Jim Winstead is co-owner of Raw Materials, an art supply store in Downtown, and he recently moved to a new larger space less than a year ago.
“One of the reasons we moved into this space is to have a classroom available so we can do classes,” said Raw Materials Art Supplies co-owner Jim Winstead. “We’ve hosted a calligraphy workshops and we plan to do so much more and we had to shut down because obviously you can’t social distance in a small classroom full of artists.”
Winstead asked the city if he could offer curbside pick-up, but was told no and then explored shipping online directly from his wholesalers, but he ran into a few obstacles.
“Part of what we do is collect things from different suppliers and really curate what we sell here so there’s not one source we can point to they can ship it all for us,” said Winstead.
Then both warehouses closed due to possible exposure to COVID-19. Winstead couldn’t fulfill online orders even if he wanted to.
“We don’t know if they’re going to hit a problem again, if somebody else is getting exposed and they’ll have to shut down for safety,” said Winstead. “If we’re taking orders, how are we going to fulfill that if we can’t do that?”
“It’s just heart-breaking because we have a whole store full of products that we can’t sell,” added Raw Materials co-owner and wife, Celia Esguerra.
So in the meantime, they’re staying busy. Stocking, cleaning, and clearing.
“One thing I do want to make sure we stay on top of is our social media,” said Esguerra.
They applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, but the money ran out at their bank. Only 3 percent of small businesses in California received funds. Their biggest concern are their customers who couldn’t get access to funds either.
“A lot of our customers are small businesses themselves whether it’s an individual artist or it’s a small design shop or a small photography studio,” said Winstead. “Those are the people that are struggling to get access to these loans.”
Winstead and Esguerra have been in business for 10 years and are confident they will survive, but they worry for their neighboring small businesses.
“I hope in the end that we come out of this that we can get back to being a part of the arts community and supporting the arts community which is such a huge part of Los Angeles and it would be a shame at the end of this if there weren’t small business like us that we’re a part of that community,” said Winstead.
Shop local everyone.