Bay Area's Small Business in Danger of Going Under

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Many small businesses, especially those owned by minorities, struggle to stay afloat in the best of times -- and now dozens in the Bay Area are in danger of going under.

Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen in uptown Oakland has been well-known for over a decade for its buttermilk-fried chicken and waffles and gumbo. As a black woman, Holland said owning a business has its challenges, such as gaining access to capital investment and real estate.

Despite what Holland says is an uphill battle, she moved into her dream location on Broadway Street just over a year ago.

“It takes a good year to get your flow,” Holland said. “We were just starting to get our stride and then this happened.”

Like all restaurants, COVID-19 is forcing her to change her business model. She is surviving on takeout, but she had to lay off nearly 30 employees and she hopes her loyal following will help keep her going.

“This is already a business with a small margin,” Holland said. “There’s no nest egg or reserve funds to hold onto.”

Small, minority-owned grocery stores like Shop Rite are taking a serious hit as well.

“The pricing really went up on the supplies themselves,” said Shop Rite owner Ali Albasiery. “We can’t go up on the pricing. We are taking a loss ourselves.”

Albasiery is not thinking about turning a profit right now, even though he needs to. He’s trying to keep his business and his customers afloat.

“I’m losing almost $200 to $300 a day, plus I’m losing out,” he said. “I can’t go up on our customers.”

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