Special Report: Pandemic: Small Businesses’ Journey

Local News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Prior to COVID-19, a cafe and a furniture store may not have had much in common, but the possibility of closing for good became very real for both, forcing them to call upon their creativity and resiliency to make it through.

“When I first heard about the coronavirus in China, I didn’t expect it to hit us here in Iowa. Here in the Midwest, small-town Sioux City, I kind of played it off. I didn’t think it would be something I’d have to worry about, or that my entire life was going to have to change because of it. Everything
changed.”

At Brightside Cafe in downtown Sioux City, the last few months haven’t been all that sunny.

“We had to completely shut down for a while,” added, Juan Munoz, the owner.

He said he went from spending his days trying to find creative ways to help his business thrive, to spending long nights figuring out how his employees were going to put food on their tables.

“I really went home with a lot of thoughts in my head about can I keep them employed. What are their families going to do? What’s the business going to do if it has to shut down for so long, are clients going to come back after we re-open?” Munoz said.

Munoz said, looking back, he wishes he could have had more time to prepare for what was to come.

“The biggest thing I learned is gratitude. I still don’t understand completely how we made it. We just did,” Munoz added.

“We do what we have to do to make people happy. That parts never changed,” Jerry Gunsolley, owner of Everett’s Furniture store in South Sioux City, said.

“When we first started off we had people that said, ‘Oh, you ought to just lock up. You ought to just close up and put everyone on unemployment.’ And we really didn’t want to that. Having been in business as many years as we’ve been in business, we had fears if we closed it up, will we ever be re-opened?” Gunsolley said.

So, the store remained open, but Gunsolley said it was difficult to get new furniture in stock.

“Companies that used to ship in two weeks are shipping in three four months, and they can’t give me an idea. They don’t know.”

Gunsolley has been in business for generations, and most of his employees are family.

“A lot of it was easier, I think. To make the decision to say, ‘Let’s just stay open, and then we’ll know what it is, and we’ll just work through it.’ If you close it up and you lose employees and you never get them back, where are you? You’re just basically dead in the water. You sit there and think if nobody
ever came back to work, you’re basically out of business and I did not want to do that at all,” he said.

While getting new stock remains a problem, Gunsolley said he’s not ready to sit back and recline quite yet.

“I grew up in this. My sister grew up in it. It’s been our lives and so you sit there and think if you just want to stop. I don’t think so. You want to keep going.”

Both Gunsolley and Munoz both said it’s been difficult getting through the pandemic, but they’re grateful to the Siouxlanders who have helped them along the way.

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