By VIRGINIA STILL
Many businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 whether they are big box stores or smaller family owned businesses with the same goal in mind to stay relevant and financially stable. In order to stay afloat during these times Envy Fine Clothing business owner Darlene Dover has continued a presence online through Instagram and Facebook as well as taking advantage of any government assistance available. Waiting on the green light from the powers that be, she is looking forward to reopening all the stores soon.
Dover has five locations in the Central Valley with the first originating in Atwater, then Turlock, Modesto, Merced and Riverbank. All five stores closed on March 21 but prior to the closure staff was already locking the doors during business hours, limiting customers in the store, and offering curbside service. There are about 40 employees total associated with Envy including management, floor staff, a bookkeeper and seamstress.
“Actually the federal government has taken really good care of the employees which makes it that much easier for me as a business owner,” Dover said, noting that they have received their tax refunds, stimulus payments, and unemployment. “So financially they are doing extremely good which takes a huge burden off of me.”
Although they have lost money each day they have been closed, Dover has kept a positive attitude. They still have to pay rent and utilities on all their locations. However she explained that the landlords have been very sympathetic and are working with them like refraining from charging any late fees.
“That (positive) is the only way that I have been,” added Dover. “My first fear was my employees. I don’t want them to get sick and I don’t want them to take that home to their families. I think just keeping that online presence you know keep posting on social media and staying positive is the best thing for the community.”
On a daily basis she would watch Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Donald Trump on television giving briefings on the pandemic and any information regarding assistance for business owners. If something was offered she applied for it. Finally she is starting to see that financial relief hitting her bank account. The PPP, Paycheck Protection Program, will be considered a federal grant and will not have to be repaid as long as she follows the guidelines and brings back all her employees.
“I really do feel like the federal government really came through for business owners as long as you have the proper information,” stated Dover. “Every single day I have been glued to the TV watching Newsom and Trump and everything they had to say. So if they offered something I applied. I know a lot of people are not fortunate enough or educated enough, or have the resources to do that. I made it my mission.”
They have started preparing to reopen the stores, gearing up emotionally and physically. They have all the cleaning supplies to properly clean all the stores and have ordered thermometers to make sure none of the employees have a temperature before they begin their shifts. Dover has also ordered disposable masks for customers just in case it makes them feel more comfortable as they shop.
As protests against the stay at home order continue and counties are starting to reopen a variety of businesses, Dover, her husband and staff are taking safety precautions for all involved. She wanted to remind everyone that it is extremely important to support the hometown by shopping local as the money spent goes back to the local economy.
“I think that this pandemic has changed the way that people are going to spend their money,” expressed Dover. “I think that they now realize that shopping local is the most important thing for their economy which is amazing. I want to thank everybody for still shopping with us during this time because we were able to keep our head afloat and if we weren’t shipping things out daily things could have been different for us. So grateful would be my number one word.”