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‘We’re all in this together’ says small business owner in Battle Creek

‘We’re all in this together’ the mantra at popular cafe and at BC Unlimited which created $1M fund to help small businesses stay afloat
'We're all in this together' is the mantra in Battle Creek.
Posted at 8:28 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 23:17:59-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich — Next to the front door at Barista Blues Cafe is a handwritten, yellow sign that says: ‘We’re all in this together. We’ll all get through this!!’

Owner Maryann Angelo said she put it up because it’s a mantra she believes.

“We’re all in this together,” Angelo reiterated during an interview with FOX 17 on Monday afternoon. “I truly was brought up with the feeling that we’re a community [and] that’s your family.”

Angelo said she was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Long Island. However she’s lived in Battle Creek for many years, raised her children in the area and opened the cafe on Michigan Avenue several years ago.

However, since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all restaurants and bars to close after the coronavirus pandemic broke out, business has slowed she said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like this. It’s been crazy,” Angelo said. “Sales wise, we’re down at least 80 percent.”

Angelo said that she and her family, who help run the cafe, have been serving customers through take-out orders and curbside service.

However the community support has been ‘overwhelming,’ she said.

“I don’t know how many times my daughter and I broke down into tears last week just knowing certain businesses you know calling and saying ‘hey we want to help can we do lunch for 30 today?’” Angelo recalled. “Even when someone calls and says ‘hey can we pick up dinner for one,’ you know why they’re doing it.”

Angelo said the community in Battle Creek is ‘unbelievable.’ Their support is what's helping them stay afloat during the pandemic.

She hopes a grant they applied for through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will help as well, Angelo said.

“I am so thankful that they put the grant money out there as opposed to loans,” Angelo said. “Think about it, you have a loss in sales. We all do. We’re all in the same boat. The last thing you’re thinking is let me borrow some money.”

Joe Sobieralski, president and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited, said there were several small business programs created immediately after Gov. Whitmer’s executive order was issued two weeks ago.

BC Unlimited, an organization dedicated to bringing commerce and revenue into the city, created a $500,000 emergency small loan fund, Sobieralski said.

“Within about 48 hours we had a program rolled out and by that Friday we already had dollars out the door,” Sobrielaski said during a FaceTime interview with FOX 17. “We have basically exhausted the original $500,000. But as of last week we decided to grow the fund to $1,000,000."

Sobriealski said that they’ve helped 13 small businesses so far.

He added that as much as BC Unlimited would like to help every business, the fund is tailored to helping the ‘non-franchised, locally-owned, ultra small companies’ that have an annual revenue of $2,500,000 or less and a staff of no more than 25 employees.

“We’re all in this together,” Sobieralski said. “I know everybody’s been saying that. But we truly are all in this together.”

It’s a phrase that Angelo says with a smile.

Angelo said she can’t wait to hug customers as soon as they re-open when the order is lifted.

“If we all can reach out and take care of one another, it makes it a whole lot easier,” Angelo said.