As the coronavirus pandemic continues and Athens-Clarke County government enforces a shelter-in-place policy, small businesses’ plans for the future are uncertain.
Seth Hendershot, founder and owner of Hendershot’s Coffee, took to GoFundMe to raise money to support his coffee bar and music venue. In just five days, the campaign raised almost $10,000 as of press time. Hendershot still has fears about the future, but the support he’s received has allowed him to pay his staff and find hope in the middle of a crisis.
Last week was an unusual week for Athens. The number of coronavirus cases in Georgia rose, students packed up and left town and ACC enforced a shelter-in-place policy. Hendershot’s closed Saturday and Sunday, allowing staff to “to be with family, regroup, take a breath, and make a plan for safe and reasonable next steps,” according to a news update on Hendershot’s website.
Hendershot spent his weekend playing in the yard with his children and enjoying the weather, he said. In his GoFundMe campaign, Hendershot expressed multiple times he felt uncomfortable asking for donations, at one point saying he’s not “in the business of charity.”
What finally pushed him to set up the campaign was seeing a similar campaign set up by Mimi Maumus, the chef and owner of home.made, another Athens restaurant.
“I have a lot of respect for her and her business and what she does,” Hendershot said.
‘A little extra padding’
Hendershot said Maumus indicated on her campaign that “investors with deep pockets” aren’t what support small businesses. It’s daily sales, he said.
Hendershot said when he first launched the campaign, he didn’t know if it would make any money. The support his business has received through the GoFundMe has been incredible, he said. Hendershot said when the money raised so far is deposited, he’ll be able to pay his staff for their last two weeks of work and add “a little extra padding for everybody.”
If you choose to donate to Hendershot’s GoFundMe campaign, which you can do here, you may receive compensation for your donation, depending on the amount.
Hendershot’s is offering creative ways of compensation for the campaign, listing prizes labeled A through F for different donation amounts. Prize A is Hendershot, who is also a musician, singing you the song of your choice on your birthday, according to the GoFundMe page. Other prizes include free drip coffee for a year, free show tickets and a private party for 25 people at Hendershot’s.
Hendershot said his musician friends inspired the campaign prize list. He explained they used GoFundMe campaigns to support making albums. Their campaigns always offered something, like a copy of the record, he said, so he wanted to take that approach.
“I never finished college, I don’t have a trade skill, but I do know what I’m good at, I’m good at coffee and I’m good at music,” he said.
Fears of the future
The coronavirus pandemic has hit many small businesses hard. Hendershot said he’s accepted his present circumstances but he worries about the future.
“This campaign is awesome, this could get us through three, four weeks, but [the pandemic] could spiral out of control, we could be out for eight weeks, twelve weeks, we just don’t know,” he said.
Hendershot added people who may not have the finances to give to the campaign or buy products right now should consider planning to spend their money at local businesses once the coronavirus pandemic ends.
For some people, when the pandemic ends, normal life will resume. But summertime can be hard on local businesses in Athens, Hendershot said. After the hardships presented by the coronavirus pandemic, it could be harder than usual.
“I think that’s the scariest part to local businesses,” he said, “We all take a huge hit in July when the town empties out, everybody’s on vacation and the students are gone.”
With the uncertainty that lies ahead, the support Hendershot has received, and continues to receive, leaves him feeling hopeful.
“I told my kids when [the outbreak started] you’re going to see the worst and the best in people, but mostly the best,” he said.
“Compassion, community and humanity are shining through, and it gives me hope,” Hendershot said.