Isabel Tarnutzer ’21: Picture this; a family huddled around a TV, sitting close with one another, listening intently to the person on the other side of the screen. The perfect nuclear family, like a scene out of an old film. Yet, this scene remains not so far fetched for those living in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. The present picture, however, is not so pleasant. Instead, that family listens to hear if their ability to provide for themselves continues. Their livelihoods, resting in the hands of the government. Such defines the life for many small business owners and their families during this uncertain time. According to Fortune, nearly 100,000 small businesses closed as a direct result of the pandemic, a frightening statistic for every small business owner.

Unlike massive corporations, local families often run small businesses. These families rely on the community around them and the income from the restaurant to provide for themselves and their loved ones. COVID shutdowns resulted in struggles and challenges for many businesses. One such business, Four Corners’ Diner, a local restaurant run by Romeo families, experienced many such struggles as a result of the pandemic.

“COVID has brought many challenges to everyone. For us, specifically, it has been the most challenging overall to keep the doors open. Given that we are not permitted indoor dining, it is more challenging to come up with enough funds to pay bills monthly, labor, and provide for families,” owner Marty Hutnick said.

For smaller businesses like Four Corners, the shutdowns made it difficult to maintain a consistent flow of customers. Without customers, these small businesses struggle to make ends meet, but with the help from the Romeo community, Four Corners remains able to continue through these difficult times.

“Through this all, our community has been extremely supportive. From ordering carry-outs, purchasing gift cards, and even assisting us with our monthly bills,” Hutnick said. 

When searching for an identifiable positive to this pandemic, the great sense of unity and togetherness that emerged could be the only answer. Without the attitude of solidarity and a sense of “we’re all in this together”, this pandemic could have been even more devastating. The community’s ability to come behind and support each other blesses many of these family-run businesses. 

Despite the help and support from the community, there still remains a gap in many of these small businesses owners’ hearts. 

“The thing and my staff and I miss most is seeing all of our customers, and interacting with them. For us, serving food to another is a privilege, and we always love getting to know our customers personally,” Hutnick said.

For many small businesses owners, the connection and interaction with their customers remains one of the most intimate joys of running a business. In the emergence of COVID, this joy slipped away from many such owners. For this reason, it remains important that we as a community continue to support and uplift the small businesses in our area and to hope for a better tomorrow. 

“We are hoping for unity as Americans. We hope that our country and state will be able to return to normal soon…” Hutnick said. 

While we no longer live in the time of nuclear families and old movies, togetherness remains one of the most crucial and key traits of protecting our community. For in such times of uncertainty, there remains one thing we can lean on; unity.

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