HASTINGS, Mich. — Steve Walker and his family are preparing to close their store the Walker Music and Textile Company after being in business for 11 years.
Throughout the years, they’ve made a lot of friends in Hastings, whom they consider to be family, Steve said.
However, what Steve will miss most are the kids and teaching them how to play an instrument and fall in love with music, he said.
“This is my dream. Shutting it down. Closing out this phase of my life,” Steve said bursting into tears during an interview with FOX 17 on Monday afternoon. “It won’t be a retail shop anymore and it won’t be an inviting environment for kids to come and be loved and to learn music.”
Steve continued to cry.
Later, he and his son Mike picked up their guitars and played Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama.
Mike stopped halfway through and said ‘I can’t do it’ while wiping tears from his eyes.
“This is who I am. People that know me, know it is,” Steve said before pausing and letting out a sigh. “If you look on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll see what this means to people. And you’ll see what it means to me.”
Sunday, Steve announced online that they were closing because of the pandemic.
He said the governor’s stay-at-home order, that went into effect on March 24, really hurt them especially when they were deemed ‘non-essential’ and other businesses in the area were not.
“I’ve been sitting here for 60 days watching my neighbors do business day in and day out,” Steve said. “They aren’t thriving but they are surviving. There’s no reason in hell I couldn’t have done the same thing. None. And that's what makes me angry.”
Steve said he tried to save the business. They called the unemployment office several times and were unsuccessful in reaching anyone. And, when they applied for grants through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, they were denied.
“There was only $32,800 grants for Barry County in total,” he said. “Of that $32,800, five businesses were the recipient of that money.”
Steve said he doesn't know which businesses were awarded the money. However, he's grateful that his store is up-to-date on their bills, even though they’re uncertain of how their expenses will look in June.
“Our utility bills with Consumers is over $600 a month so that really bites into what you have,” said his wife Nancy, who also manages the store. “And then of course we have our phones and internet and water bill an insurance and on and on.”
So they’re moving out, she said. Their landlord will let them out early. In the meantime, they’re selling their inventory.
“For our future we’ve decided that the best thing for us is to close,” Nancy said. “So right now we’re having 20 percent sales off for the next 2 weeks and then, we’re only going to run our sales for about six weeks.”
Nancy said whatever a customer purchases, they’ll bring out to them curbside.
However, the Walkers wish they didn’t have to do this, they said. They felt the governor's executive order killed not only their store but their dream.
“I put the responsibility of that on the governor’s shoulders because if she had been reasonable, this would not be happening,” Walker said. “But oh well. That’s the way it is. That’s life. And, I have to move on and deal with it.”