Small and large businesses in the Chino Valley have been struggling to keep afloat since stay-at-home orders were issued in March because of the coronavirus.
Children no longer play arcade games and shoot infrared-emitting light guns at Infuzion Zone laser tag center in Chino Hills, which had opened its doors last fall.
Owner Deanna Margaritha sensed trouble when four large groups scheduled for private events in early March began cancelling, one after the other.
As news of the pandemic spread, Mrs. Margaritha and her husband Alex shut their doors March 16.
“We thought it would be just a few days and we would reopen again,” Mrs. Margaritha said. “I’m getting emotional saying this because it’s painful to think of the possibility of losing everything.”
Mrs. Margaritha said all her family’s savings went into the business, located at the northwest corner of Chino Hills Parkway and Pipeline Avenue.
“People think we are part of a franchise, but we’re not,” she said. “We are literally a small mom-and-pop operation.”
She is worried that her fixed expenses will continue to pile up each month.
On a positive note, she has partnered with other small businesses in the Chino Valley to launch “Party to GO!” where a virtual art party is brought to the customer’s doorstep with the delivery of pizza, cupcakes, candles, balloons, and art supplies.
The art supplies are delivered to the customer’s friends as well.
Roscoe’s Famous Deli on Pipeline Avenue in Chino Hills padlocked its doors on St. Patrick’s Day after 13 years in business and laid off 65 employees on what was supposed to have been the busiest day of the year for the restaurant.
Co-owner and longtime Chino Hills resident Nick Montano re-opened for curbside pickup and takeout on May 4 and displayed a banner with the words “We’re Back.”
He was able to rehire between 20 to 25 employees.
Mr. Montano said the first week was great with a lot of community support, but it has slowed down a bit.
“It just doesn’t pencil out at the end of the day with our dine-in business model,” he said. “You can’t do takeout and pay the bills.”
Mr. Montano said residents patronize Roscoe’s for the ambience and to socialize while eating and drinking.
Longtime restaurant owner Julie Cannataro who owns the Italian restaurant Cannataro’s in Chino laid off all 32 employees when the pandemic hit.
She began testing the waters by asking workers if they wanted to come back for to-go orders.
With 10 employees, she is now offering special deals on Facebook and uses her customer data base to send out email blasts.
“I’m staying afloat but I don’t know how long it will last,” she said. “I’ve been in business for 17 years so I have many loyal customers, but newer restaurants are definitely struggling a lot more.”
Unlike the entertainment and hospitality industry that has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, Diamond Wipes International was deemed an essential business because it produces sanitizing wipes for hands and hard surfaces, said marketing manager Vivian Durra.
The company, located at Schaefer and Yorba avenues in Chino, launched more products such as hand-sanitizing gels in response to increased demand, and continues to make everyday essentials such as baby wipes and cleaning products that may be harder for consumers to find during this time, Ms. Durra said.
Zeb Welborn, president of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the pandemic is devastating businesses.
“Owners are uncertain about when they can reopen,” he said. “Livelihoods are being taken away.”
Mr. Welborn said despite the devastation, businesses are making smart decisions to keep everything going and stay connected.
Mr. Welborn has been leading webinars (online seminars) featuring Chino Valley leaders every Tuesday and providing businesses with resources and coronavirus information.
He has been collecting survey information from Chamber members and sending the information to federal representatives.
“We’ve been able to form a strong sense of community and a much higher level of engagement,” he said, that has resulted in grant and loan funding for several Chamber businesses.
Dr. Quynh Tran, an optometrist and owner of Inland Family Optometry in Chino said the Chamber informed her about a $5,000 grant opportunity from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which she applied for and received.
The Chino Hills resident said her revenues dramatically decreased when she closed her Chino office in mid-March.
The grant helped her pay bills and purchase personal protection supplies and equipment to keep her doctors, staff and patients safe as she took steps to open this week.
Chino Hills resident Mike Barbin who owns Graphic Details in Chino said Mr. Welborn and the Chamber have kept his business updated on relief that is available for small businesses and provides direct contacts and resources tailored to his business.
City of Chino
Vivian Castro, spokesperson for the city of Chino, said the city has contacted more than 500 businesses to assess their needs, assist them with compliance of county, state and federal orders, and counsel them on filing for the Paycheck Protection Program.
The city is working on a “Chino Small Business Assistance Grant Program” that will provide funds for small businesses that meet certain criteria with grants to help pay their rent, she said.
Ms. Castro said many businesses in Chino have generously supported the city such as Jaspers Global Manufacturing donating surgical masks, Paklab donating hand sanitizers and Lollicup donating surgical masks.
Mr. Welborn said PakLab is a contract manufacturer of personal care products on Monte Vista Avenue in Chino. The company shifted production to sell hand sanitizers, he said.
Diamond Wipes has been a tremendous asset to the city and region by providing high quality products that allow restaurants, hospitals, public and private entities implement the necessary hygiene and safety practices required during the pandemic, Ms. Castro said.
The faith community has also come out strong, she said, including East Sarang Community Church donating surgical masks.
Chino Hills community development director Joann Lombardo said city staff is staying in touch with its active commercial projects, both the tenants and owners/property managers via phone calls, emails and through the city’s economic development consultant.
The city is providing permit and permit application extensions to in-progress development projects that have slowed during the crisis, within the parameters of the building and development code, she said.
Federal and state small business programs are being monitored and the community relations team is posting the information on the website.
“The city is committed to our local businesses,” Ms. Lombardo said. “When we get back to what could be a new normal, we will continue to look for ways to restore and reinvigorate our small businesses and commercial centers.”