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Small businesses in Nevada County retool with Relief Fund

John Orona
Staff Writer

A month after the Nevada County Relief Fund announced its first round of small business micro-grant recipients, many awardees are cautiously optimistic about their chances of rebounding from the COVID-19 shutdown.

“The award announcement came at a time when I was really low on funds,” said Leea Davis, owner of The Earth Store in Nevada City. “I’m in a good place financially now because of that grant, it was a nice cushion.”

Davis received the maximum small business award amount of $5,000 and used it to buy a point-of-sale system, work on her e-commerce site and supplement her revenue. The funding, along with an uptick in business, has allowed her to bounce back after shutting down for two-and-a-half months.

“Business has actually been quite brisk and good. June was strong and I didn’t have many bills because I didn’t buy anything for two months,” she said. “I have a lot of locals come in and say, ‘We’re so glad you’re here and made it.’ There’s just a lot of really nice, loving energy coming my way and, I think, buying a little bit more because we don’t know what the future is.”

However, like many business owners Davis said she worried about what a potential return earlier restrictions would mean for her business and is trying to prepare now.

“With the coronavirus numbers going up I am a little nervous,” she said. “I think it’s good to put some money away and hopefully we won’t have to shut down again.”

Other small businesses are similarly trying to pivot in a way that will allow them to remain in business today while adapting to the “new normal” to come.

‘A NEW NORMAL’

Juliette Williams, a Nevada City jewelry and mixed-media artist, was awarded $2,400, which she used to create an online store, join the Nevada County Arts Council and expand her physical presence by creating an installation exhibit at the Miners Foundry.

Frank Bloksberg, owner of Aikido’Ka martial arts studio in Grass Valley, is yet to receive his $2,500 award, but said he may have stumbled on another silver lining.

Bloksberg reopened his dojo with major restrictions and few returning members. He’s had a few classes a week outside with about half a dozen participants, but only after they answer screening questions, wear masks, have their temperature taken and remain in 12-foot diameter chalk circles to ensure social distancing.

“I take that incredibly seriously,” Bloksberg said. “The dojo is not going to be a place people get sick if I could possibly help it.”

However, he said he’s noticed slowly people are becoming comfortable with the restrictions.

“Not that many people want to show up, they’re still very reticent and I sure don’t blame them,” he said. “But I feel like we’re finding a new normal, people are being accustomed to, and to a certain extent, beginning to enjoy the new approach.”

The Relief Fund will announce the next round of awardees on Monday, pushing back its original July 7 date to allow more time to review applicants, Community Advisory Council co-chair Sherry Bartolucci said. The organization was also hoping to reach a fundrasing target of $500,000 by July Fourth, but as of Tuesday was about $50,000 short.

“We will get to $500,000, it’s just a matter of time,” Bartolucci said. “People have been so into this. The fact that we’ve been able to get this many funds with the enthusiasm of the community is just really mind blowing. The fact that we have a community that’s like this and that cares is not what you normally find.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

07/08: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Bloksberg’s name and business.


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