LIHU‘E — COVID-19 has affected many businesses on Kaua‘i, and owners are finding creative ways to stay open and serve the community.
General Manager Tricia Ruiz of Kiawe Roots and her team had to make the decision of closing down their restaurant temporarily in hopes of keeping all employees and customers safe.
“Our decision to close the restaurant temporarily was something we did not take lightly, but ultimately our priority was to be considerate of the health of our team members, our family and community,” Ruiz said.
“The only way to stop the contribution of spreading infection was to close our doors until we can find a better solution for minimal-to-no-contact service during this high-advisory period.”
Ruiz is carefully considering trying the take-out system that most restaurants on Kaua‘i have moved on to instead of the traditional dining-in service to help feed the community and keep their business going.
Kaua‘i residents Hilda Morales and Bard Widmer have taken a different approach. On March 11, in the midst of the chaos, the duo quietly opened their second location of the restaurant Tiki Tacos, in Waimea. The original location is still slinging tacos out of their small restaurant in Waipouli, with social-distancing rules in place for customers.
“COVID-19 has brought a wave of calm to our family life and a sense of excitement and joy to our work life. Ironic? I know. We are blessed,” said Morales.
Morales said the Waimea community has opened up their support to their new restaurant in a time when most people are losing their jobs.
“If there was a lesson about life that we have learned from all of this, it is to be grateful for what, and who, you have in your life, and to take it all just one taco at a time,” said Morales.
For other business owners who already work at home and utilize social-media platforms for business growth, staying at home is a different opportunity to grow.
According to Leilani Mayer, while working at home she is spending more time in prayer, focusing on her health, and spending more time with her family.
“Change is good, and right now it’s more than necessary to re-evaluate things in my life that don’t serve me or help me to evolve. It’s like spring cleaning for the soul,” Mayer said.
Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Perriello said that to say times are difficult for small businesses on Kaua‘i “is an understatement.” He is inspired by the transitions some small businesses have made.
“It is encouraging to see so many businesses creatively adjusting their business model in order to stay afloat,” Perriello said. “For example, many restaurants have elected to stay open and offer pick-up, delivery, and drive-through services only.”
The Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list of these businesses at COVID19Kauai.com
According to Perriello, not all businesses have the option of staying open due to COVID-19 measures. Those businesses are encouraged to determine the eligibility requirements for U.S. Small Business Administration COVID-19 disaster loans by visiting www.sba.gov/disaster.
“The chamber encourages employers to help their employees during this difficult time. If you need to lay off employees, please provide guidance on applying for unemployment benefits,” Perriello said.
“The chamber is currently surveying the business community on the impacts of COVID-19 on their operations. You can find the survey on the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce Facebook page,” he said.
“Last week, over 400 businesses participated in the chamber’s COVID19 webinar. We are planning a second webinar focused on business finances. Look for an announcement on our Facebook page soon.”
Perriello anticipates that additional money will be made available through the recently signed federal economic stimulus package.
“Once that money is released, the chamber will provide our members and the business community with information on how to access those needed funds,” Perriello said.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.