MINNEAPOLIS—The ramifications of the forced shutdowns on thousands of small businesses in Minnesota is going to be huge, says Julie Schroeder, who owns two craft stores in the Minneapolis metro area.
“The fallout by this time next year will be shocking,” she told The Epoch Times on Dec. 30, 2020.
Schroeder owns two Color Me Mine franchises—small craft shops where customers come in, select a piece of pottery, and paint it in the store. The store then fires it for them. The main money-maker for Schroeder is from groups of people coming in and painting together as a social activity.
But the constant closures imposed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has left her financially stripped and caused the demise of one of her businesses and the loss of eight employees.
On June 2 last year, Schroeder had to permanently close her store in Rochester, Minnesota, after being unable to sustain the losses.
“I was bleeding money,” she said. “What people don’t realize is that you don’t close it and cut all your losses.”
Schroeder had a lease through 2024, which was for $250,000. She had to negotiate a buyout, which cost her entire retirement fund of $50,000.
“The woman who owns the building lost big, too,” she said.
The rent at her two remaining locations, in Eagan and Woodbury, totals $10,500 per month.
“I can’t make a $10,500 rent payment every month from my husband’s income—it’s not even possible—much less pay all my staff, and order stuff, and pay for the utilities and all of that. It’s just impossible. And I think people are shocked when they find out my rent—they think I’m paying $500, they really do.”
Schroeder had just completed her profit-and-loss summary on QuickBooks and revealed that she was $200,000 down.
“I’m 57, so for me to make that up at a pottery store … and that’s in nine months,” she said, “for me to make that up over the years is, I don’t know how that’ll work. I’ll make it up when I sell the stores, I suppose, because they’ll have a value.”
That’s assuming she can continue to weather the capricious lockdowns and rebuild her stores.
Clay Clark, investor and author of “Fear Unmasked—Discover the Truth about the Coronavirus Shutdown,” said the shutdowns have resulted in countless urban areas now looking like dystopian movie scenes.
“Small-business owners have put their entire life-savings and have invested years of their lives into starting and building a business that these heartless and tyrannical governors and mayors are destroying with their unconstitutional mandates,” Clark told The Epoch Times via email.
“China’s leadership should be proud. Many communist-controlled governors and mayors have done their part to execute the ‘Great Reset’ flawlessly.”
The “Great Reset” refers to a World Economic Forum idea that the pandemic can be used to reshape global relations and economies.
Schroeder’s tumultuous year began in March when Walz launched the first round of lockdowns, which was initially for two weeks to “flatten the curve” but ended up lasting six weeks.
“That’s my second busiest time of the year because it’s spring break,” Schroeder said. “We could do curbside drop-off and pickup, but we couldn’t open the door, and I had nothing online at that point to shop from.”
During the ensuing days, Schroeder and her staff frantically put all the items onto Shopify so people could order online and pick it up. While it did bring in some business, it was an added expense to set up and operate.
She received some federal Paycheck Protection Program money, but all of it was used for staff payroll at her three stores. At the end of the first six-week complete shutdown, there was no money left and barely any customers were out and about.
In July, people were finally able to come into the store to purchase items.
“So you could come in and shop your pieces and take them home to paint, which did help a bit because it’s easier to buy in the store than it is online,” Schroeder said.
“My customers are so supportive, but they can’t keep me going. … They just can’t keep me going on just grabbing some to-go stuff.”
The people she leases the current two stores from are doing what they can, but they have bills to pay, too.
“And it’s not their fault that we closed, either—they’d have me open. It’s the government’s fault,” she said.
“If you’re going to say, ‘You have to be closed,’ then look at each month last year and give me a check for every month. That would be fair. But for some reason, these other big companies, they can just move right along.”
In December, right before Christmas, Schroeder was ordered to completely shut down again. And despite many supporters who backed her reopening, the detractors stand out.
Among other hate messages, she received a Christmas card with the note, “You greedy [expletive], your love of the almighty dollar is NOT more important than a person’s life! I hope that you burn in hell for all eternity.”
In a Facebook post, Schroeder explained that she was too afraid to report the card to law enforcement in case they cited her for opening her business.
“First of all, I haven’t taken a paycheck in over a year, and I spent all my [retirement]. So how that’s greedy and selfish, I don’t know,” she said. “Do they want to pay my staff? Because I have three staff, [and] this is their full-time job. And everything I make first goes to wages. So I don’t know how that’s greedy and selfish.”
During the same timeframe over the Christmas holiday, the Build-a-Bear store in the Mall of America was open, which Schroeder says doesn’t make sense.
“And there’s kids all over in there, building bears. It’s the same thing,” she said.
During springtime, Schroeder contacted every principal and superintendent of every school in the district to ask if their e-newsletters to parents can mention that her “Paint and Learn” educational activity packs for children are available.
“I got zero responses,” she said. “I, over 11 years, have been at every carnival, have given every donation that they asked for. I work a lot with the schools.”
For now, Schroeder and her husband are reassessing the risk each month. She’s determined to hold onto her business, but she’s tired of not being able to plan and of being called “nonessential” for months on end.
“The mental health part for me has become a real issue. When you’re told you’re nonessential for 10 months, you really start to think that you just don’t matter,” she said.
“And you look at the science … the graphs are identical in every state. The virus is going to do what it’s going to do, and it’s sad. But the states that have stayed open, the graph is exactly the same. So unfortunately, the stupid virus is just going to do what it’s going to do. We can’t stop it.”
She said she feels like moving away from Minnesota due to government overreach in its response to the pandemic.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my state,” she said.
“People don’t realize the extraordinary expense of running a small business, even a pottery studio. That’s really what I want people to understand. It’s not just a little hobby. I have full-time people.”