By Paolo Bicchieri
In the nearly empty avenues of the Sunset District, a line formed outside of Andytown Coffee’s cafe on Lawton Street. Patrons were careful to leave a six-foot gap to maintain “social distancing” to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic contagion that has had a profound impact on people around the world.
Lauren Crabbe, co-owner and founder of Andytown Coffee, was on Twitter and saw some restaurants were raising money to send meals to hospitals. She thought: “we could totally do that.” Customers could also write a personal note of thanks to go along with the order.
Soon Crabbe came up with a program to support healthcare and senior care workers: One can purchase a cup of coffee and a pastry for a healthcare professional. By March 18 – in less than 24 hours – they raised more than $10,000. By the next day, they had raised $20,000. Thanks to the dontations, Andytown made a delivery to SF General Hospital with 100 pastries and cold brew concentrate to last weeks.
“Some programs were asking for a thousand dollars at a time, and that seemed pretty large,” Crabbe said. She pictured a smaller operation that could make a big impact.
Happy Moose Juice and Nana Joe’s Granola, two fellow SF businesses that work closely with Andytown, have agreed to join the healthcare delivery program.
Not every business has created clever ways to maintain sales while supporting the city through this crisis. Many are suffering. San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston is hard at work to keep people afloat.
“For owners and their employees, you can file for unemployment insurance but you don’t have to be unemployed,” Preston’s Chief of Staff Jen Snyder said. “If your hours have been reduced (due to COVID-19), you are eligible.”
Snyder recommends small business loans, paid leave, and deferments for businesses with less than $10 million in gross receipts. To help triage the damage to businesses, there are no evictions for commercial businesses making less than $25 million in gross receipts.
The Board of Supervisors proposed on March 24 to make $15,000 no-interest loans available for small businesses with no payments due for a year.
“We want to take care of our community first and foremost,” Snyder says.
Other business owners are finding their own ways to support the community.
Eve Batey, who owns and operates Avenues Dry Goods, said San Franciscans need to pivot and support businesses like Andytown. Stores like her own have moved to online and delivery sales, coordinating sanitized drop-offs through Instagram. She says that it is the businesses with thousands of dollars in perishable goods and a floor staff that need our dollars.
“I have to cover rent, utilities, and insurance. A smaller thing to figure out than workers compensation,” Batey adds. “So many businesses need to take care of their workers.”
She said she and her husband run the business, so she recommends that the community spend money in local retail and food businesses who need to pay their employees.
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