LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The pandemic has already wiped out thousands of local businesses across the country and now, with the work-from-home order extended for the next six months, some fear more damage will happen to businesses in downtown Lansing.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration work from home order was expected to end on April 14th, but will now go through Oct. 14th — the last piece of news store owners and managers wanted to hear.
“All the traffic that these stores get is from the state workers and from the people that work down here,” said Ron Gillum, manager at The Cigar Connoisseur. “So, it’s good and bad. People are staying safe but businesses are missing out on a lot of money.”
According to Gillum, the Cigar Connoisseur had to close its doors early on in the pandemic from March to June, but have been open the past 10 months. During that time business has been slower than normal, but recently with the vaccine rollout, there was optimism that normalcy was around the corner.
Now, he’s not so sure.
“I think with the vaccines maybe we can get back to some normalcy,” Gillum said. (We need to) get people back downtown working again in their offices and cubicles.”
The Cigar Connisseur is far from the only store going through this. The same holds true for nearly every small business, including La Cocina Cubana, a Cuban food restaurant directly next door.
The owner of the restaurant told 6 News she normally works just a few hours per day, over-seeing daily operations. However now, in order to keep her doors open, she’s working 12 hour days because she can’t afford to pay a full staff.
According to one of her employees, who helped translate, without the workers coming back downtown, hard times seem as if they will only continue.
“(Workers not being here) has slowed the business down,” said Ilianis Hernandez. “There’s less income that has affected the staff and owners…foot traffic is about 50 percent (of total business).”
In the end, workers say there’s one way to save their stores.
“If everybody was working down here like they were before everything would be good,” Gillum said. “The only reason these businesses are hurting is because the people who work down here are now working at home.”