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Businesses fight to survive

Valerie Jackson of Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists helps customer Bill Kemper. The businesses has reopened after being shuttered since March 23.

Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists gunsmith Charlie Jackson speaks with customer Ed regarding a repair May 20 at the shop at 7600 Menaul NE.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — You might say Valerie Jackson comes from stalwart stock.

When her paternal grandmother recognized the rumblings of war in 1930s Italy, she didn’t wait around for her husband to come home from the U.S., where he had started a grocery store with a relative. Instead, Jackson’s grandmother packed up and came to him – all eight children in tow.

And on her mother’s side, Jackson’s ancestors’ arrival in the U.S. was prompted by another bit of calamity – the Irish potato famine.

When Jackson realized in March that her store, Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists at 7600 Menaul NE, would need to close under restrictions aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19, she knew the business was looking at hard times. But she wasn’t about to despair – it’s just not the way she was raised.

“Your heart fell to your feet, like, ‘Gee, am I going to survive this?'” said Jackson of the time leading up to the closures. “… Dad always said, ‘If times get tough, just think a way around it.'”

Screen Images Inc. co-owners Maria Cordova-Barber, left, and Sandy Harrington stand in their Albuquerque factory at 620 Industrial NE. While Cordova-Barber and Harrington have come into their office daily to fulfill orders for essential clients, the company was largely shut down between March 27 and May 18.

Jackson’s store – which she co-owns with husband Charlie – was one of many that recently was allowed to reopen for in-person shopping, with a number of new restrictions in place.

In the May 18 Business Outlook, the Journal put out a call inviting New Mexicans who work at or own a business that recently reopened to submit pictures of the first few days back. The response – a selection of which is printed in today’s Outlook – offers a glimpse into the world of New Mexico’s small business community.

Many businesses throughout the state – and the rest of the country – remain shuttered. Those that have reopened aren’t back to normal yet – there’s no way they could be, because the virus is still spreading, still a threat to life and health.

In the world of business, that means workplaces don’t look the same, and businesses are having to shift their models to fit customers’ new behaviors.

Sunny505 CEO Joanie Griffin, left, and senior graphic designer Angelo Mitchell, right, sit six feet from each other while they conduct an online meeting with coworkers May 18, the communication firm’s first day back in its office at 119 Dartmouth SE since March 16. Fewer than 25% of the company’s staff are now working at the office, and the rest continue to telecommute, according to Griffin.

Joanie Griffin, CEO of Albuquerque-based Sunny505 communications firm, wrote in an email that while a she and three others returned to the office March 16, the rest of her 16 staffers are still telecommuting. She submitted a photo of herself and a colleague on a video conference call with the rest of her team, still at home.

“Certainly my first time ever leading a meeting in a face mask,” Griffin wrote.

Rachel Langer of Red Rock Roasters, whose company recently reopened for curbside pickup, wrote her business never fully shuttered as coffee roasters were considered essential. The company’s direct sales to business is currently down about 75%. But that wasn’t the only change.

Red Rock Roasters pickup shelf May 19. The company didn’t completely close down but is now offering curbside pickup in addition to delivery.

“In general our direct-to-customer sales have quadrupled,” wrote Langer, who submitted a photo of herself standing amid stacks of boxes ready for shipping.

Signs at Corrales Hemporium lets customers know the shop at 4484 Corrales Road is once again open for business. The shop reopened May 15 after being closed due to virus restrictions. Owner Fawn Dolan wrote in an email she thought the store should have been allowed to remain open as an essential service.

Fawn Dolan of Corrales Hemporium, which also recently reopened, wrote in an email that her customers are “slowly straggling back in.”

Dolan – whose other two businesses, Camino Real Antiques and Nearly New repeat clothing boutique, were also closed down – wrote of her frustration that the hemp shop had to close in the first place.

“Governor’s orders (were) to close as we weren’t considered an essential business, even though CBD is a viable alternative for pain, stress, sleeplessness – all things that were made worse with this pandemic!” Dolan wrote.

Jackson of Charlie’s Hunting & Fishing Specialists said Thursday she and her husband have been grateful people in their immediate circle – family members, staff, fellow church-goers – have stayed physically healthy in recent weeks.

As coworker Katie Wolf looks on, Jordan Koelmel, a barista at Humble Coffee Co. at 4200 Lomas NE, serves a customer May 15, the shop’s first day open since March 22. The location, which was closed from March 22 to May 15, is now open Fridays to Sundays.

Kristin Dowling removes fresh baked cookies from the oven May 20 at Rude Boy Cookies. The business, which has locations at 2500 Central SW and 115 Harvard SE in Albuquerque, has been functioning in a curbside capacity since March 23, and partially reopened May 18.

They’ve also been glad they were able to keep employees paid at home, and to come into the shop themselves during the closures to process online and delivery orders and repair jobs.

Now, their workers are all back on the job except one. Longtime customers have been coming back around, and some new faces have been in as well.

But sourcing inventory is a challenge, and Jackson said she expects a long road back not just for her shop, but for all small business owners.

“I think we’re all suffering together, and I think we can all work together,” she said. “… We’re in (the world of small business) because we love our industry, whatever it might be.”

Stephanie Baca mixes cookie dough May 20 at Rude Boy Cookies.

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