Small business owners emotionally close doors, send staff home following governor's order

"Think of the damage it's going to do to us," Ray VanDerZee, owner of VanDerZee Motorplex, told FOX 17 Tuesday
Posted at 3:32 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 18:49:46-04

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Small business owners all across West Michigan were forced to keep their doors locked and businesses closed Tuesday following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lockdown order.

The governor's "stay home, stay safe" order forces all businesses not deemed essential to shut down.

FOX 17 spoke to Ray VanDerZee, owner of VanDerZee Motorplex in South Haven, Tuesday afternoon.

“Yesterday when the edict came down, we had to get the employees together. My wife didn’t know if she would hold it together and neither did I," he said.

VanDerZee has owned and operated the business for nearly 30 years. They have been operating out of their building on Phoneix Street since 2006.

“I know I have to comply and when I do it it hurts. The face of my employees will be ingrained in my mind forever. I couldn’t sleep last night," VanDerZee said Tuesday. “If I had a fire, a break-in, If I had an employee embezzle, I’ve got insurance to cover me for that. I have nothing to protect me from shutting down due to a government order.”

He plans to come in to work everyday throughout the shutdown, working from his office space above the now dark showroom.

"My taxes haven’t stopped, my expenses haven’t stopped, my assistance has stopped. But who has rallied for us?" he said.

VanDerZee says he plans to continue paying his employees during the length of the shutdown. He is able to get some of his work done via the internet, but he says it just isn't the same as walking a client through the showroom floor.

"All my life I’ve been in sales. I’m a people person. I need the interaction, the face to face. I need to know what my clients need," he said Tuesday. "When this is all said and done, we’re going to be stronger. We’re going to be better. We’ll survive, there's no doubt about it. But when it's done, our way of life has changed."

He says he wants to do everything in his power to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but wishes our elected officials were more compassionate in their actions.

"Let us know, give us hope. That's what we need right now. We need that more than anything else."

VanDerZee is confident his business will weather this unprecedented situation, but worries about what the lasting emotional impact will be on small business owners across the state.

"I have one stop sign before I come to work and everyday at that stop sign I smile and say I get to go the motorplex today. I didn’t smile today and that hurts," VanDerZee said. "But it doesn’t hurt for me. It hurts for my employees and It hurts for my community."