Montclair, NJ – Montclair area businesses have been struggling with COVID since March 2020. Early on they had to pause and then pivot. This year, as a result of the Omicron surge, many have had to temporarily close. Montclair Bread Company sent out an SOS Thursday morning to customers.
In an email entitled “Save Our Small Business,” owner Rachel Wyman is critical of township officials for not offering more support:
I’m not asking for money or financial assistance (although it would help), I want people to show up and fight with me. I want my team to see support from our local government while they are working around the clock and doing everything they can to support our community. I don’t want to see another social media post from another local business with headlines that read “closed until further notice,” “closed until next month,” or “we had to make the difficult decision….” We’ve already lost too many great businesses and we are going to lose more if we don’t do something. January and February are the hardest months of the year to be in the food business. Normally we can rely on holiday sales in December to get us through. But with all the staff shortages and all the closings because of Omicron, our December was the worst on record.
What can you do to help? Contact our elected officials and ask them how they are working to keep small businesses alive and thriving. Help me, help my fellow business owners avoid posting another “closed until…” message. I want to be able to get a latte, cupcakes, gelato, pain aux raisins and go to see a movie in my town! (maybe not all at the same time)
Thank you for your continued support & thank you for reading. I care about this community and I know we can do better for each other.
On Wednesday, Montclair’s Guerriero Gelato made the difficult decision to close indefinitely.
“We have had more staff out in December than the last 2 years combined. We are still open in Caldwell, and back to normal hours, but we be closed in Montclair,” owner Mike Guerriero said, sharing the message below on social media.
Montclair Film’s moviehouse, The Clairidge, has had to shut its doors temporarily, sending the following email to members:
Due to a shortage of available staff to operate the cinemas, and out of an abundance of caution for our patrons and staff, we will be closing The Clairidge until Monday, January 10th at the earliest.
We value the health and safety of our patrons and staff above all, and will notify everyone once we are able to properly staff the cinemas and provide the excellent filmgoing experience for which we are known.
If you have a ticket for an upcoming screening taking place January 5-9, please email email@example.com and we will provide you with either a voucher for a future screening or a refund. We apologize for this inconvenience.
In the coming days, we will be working to ensure we are able to serve our patrons, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to The Clairidge as soon as is possible.
Baristanet reached out to town officials for comment.
“If any business doesn’t feel that the government is doing enough then we’re not,” says Councilor Peter Yacobellis. “A few months ago I don’t think anyone anticipated we would be back here where it feels like we’ve now taken several steps back after making so much progress with the pandemic. Omicron hit us fast and furiously and has, like other versions of the virus, disrupted everything from in-class learning to people being able to go to work, which is one of the biggest challenges for employers, large and small right now. You’d have to talk to the Mayor about his Task Force and their remit overall. What I’ve been doing with them is raising money to help fund the new site www.loveourmontclair.com, advertise the site in the local press, put up editorial content and fund the deployment of the Shop.Eat.Repeat decals with QR codes for shop doors.”
“What’s driving the challenge right now is people are getting sick with and/or testing positive for COVID and not able to show up to work. We’re seeing this with everything from the airlines having to cancel flights to businesses having to shut down temporarily,” Yacobellis added. “I think governments at all levels need to adopt a spring 2020 COVID response mentality quickly. We need the state and federal programs that were supporting small businesses to be turned back on and funded.”
In November 2021, Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller announced the formation of Mayor’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force with a sub-committee geared to helping small businesses. Mayor Spiller had this to say Thursday in response to Montclair businesses who are struggling:
“The twists and turns of this pandemic have been incredibly hard on small businesses. We are contending with a perfect storm of an extraordinarily competitive labor market and an extremely contagious variant right now.
From the beginning, we’ve worked to support our small businesses, including providing direct municipal grants to Montclair small businesses – $100,000, worked with our COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to lobby the State of New Jersey to modify outdoor dining rules, run a shop local campaign, held town hall meetings on small business grants from the state and Federal Government, waived outside permit fees, worked with the BID to secure additional grants from the state, eliminated parking costs during the initial surge and recovery, changed rules to accommodate curbside pick up zones and more.
Unfortunately, this pandemic isn’t over and its impacts will continue to be felt for a long time–including financial and budgetary constraints on the Township. We’re committed to continuing to work with our small business community throughout town to come out of this stronger on the other side. My door and the Task Force’s door is always open to any business that has concerns or ideas on how to better address challenges.”
We will update with comment from any other council members here.