The Indicator from Planet Money - The Long, Slow Recovery

Team Indicator follows up with ice cream shop owner Molly Moon to look at the road to recovery for small businesses. | Show your love for The Indicator here.

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Molly Moon Knight Sloane's Molly Moon's homemade ice cream the chain of ice cream shops in the Seattle Washington area. She started back in 2008 with one shop and a few recipes and the time she was just hoping the herb shop would be a success and maybe she'd have a handful of employees more than a decade later. Molly had nine shops nearly a hundred employees and business was beyond anything. She could have imagined do before the pandemic started. We were on track to break. The 10 million dollar is in a year mark, either this year or next year and like that is such an amazing number because very very few women ever cross that line and I was really looking forward to that and things were going really well when covid-19 hits Seattle Molly had to close her shops and layoffs almost her entire staff including her own father and her best friend. She also stopped paying for self.

00:01:29
That we first talked to Molly back in April just after she had close to shops and just after she'd applied for a PPP loan. Those were loans from the government program meant to Aid small businesses. And when we spoke with her it was right after her PPP loan had fallen through and she was terrified that she was going to lose her business. I can't even go to the worst-case place. I care too much.

00:01:56
about the people that work for me and

00:02:01
I'm just not going to let the worst case happen think so actually gotten a lot better for Molly's business since that really terrible time in April for PPP loan eventually came through and she was able to reopen her shop. She started selling pints to local grocery stores and sold merchandise and loyalty cards online sales have been slow around path of normal the between one thing and another Molly pull through but now winter is here which probably is reasons is always hard on ice cream sales in Seattle has just introduced economic restrictions for a second time after a surge in Kobe cases all through the spring you were you were worried about the survival of your business. Are you still?

00:02:47
I know I know we can survive now. Like I'm not having an existential crisis now, it's just like it's still very stressful. Like how are we going to do it always says she feels lucky that her business has survived but even so her business is in a very different place now than it was at the beginning of the year when she was on track to break the 10 million dollar barrier. Well, we're going half of what we thought we'd do. I've done half of what I thought I'd do in 2020.

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feel terrible

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This is Anna cater from Planet Money. I'm Cardiff Garcia and I'm Stacey Vanek Smith in the early days of the pandemic when the economic shutdowns first started happening. A lot of Economist were hopeful that maybe we would see a v-shaped recovery. That is the economy was plunged and then it would bounce right back up like a V but that is not what happened today on the show The long slow uneven economic recovery.

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00:05:07
When your conomic shutdowns first happened back in March a lot of people thought it was just last for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months workers would be furloughed for a little while. And then maybe we all go back to work the course that was 9 months ago. And now in a lot of States a second round of economic shutdown so started I think we are in long slow slog territory. Now, how do you share Holtz is an economist with the economic policy Institute and she says one thing has become clear. This recovery is not going to be quick and clean at least until we get a vaccine has done things will shift but at this point that had wings are really dire shape recovery for one thing. A lot of businesses are just gone they close their doors when a business closes like that. There are Ripple effects for one thing the people who own those businesses.

00:06:07
Likely in rough Financial shape and the people who worked at those businesses are also likely to be in financial hardship and then they're all the businesses that supplied those businesses like the bakeries butcher Farms that supplied all of the restaurants. They are all seeing their own bottom lines get smaller. And so a lot of people are just spending less money right now and all of this together translates into lower demand a drop in demand even a small one has a huge effect on businesses and on the economy as a whole and gas a problem right now because demand is low that means businesses and their demand for goods and services do businesses need fewer workers consistency lower profits. It's it actually hurts. Everyone Molly moon has been able to rehire all of the 98 workers that she's laid off including her dad, but even so most of them are

00:07:07
I'll just working half-time or just work way fewer hours than they did before the pandemic, which means they're also learning a lot less.

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A lot less. Yeah, when you live in Seattle and studio apartment is $1,600 and you make $18 an hour, which is our minimum.

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You can't really give up 25% of that.

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I have a few single moms that work for me that I just

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You know, I wake up thinking about these women and I fall asleep thinking about them. Just like I did your hold says a lot of the people who still have their jobs have also seen their financial situations change technically Molly's workers are lucky. They have a job. They have benefits but it does not mean they're in the same situation that they were in back in January Molly has Zoom coffee date with the different employee each day. And she says Everyone is always really kind and grateful on those coffee dates, but she's worried about what they're not telling her. They know is working hard for them and cares about them. They're saying I'll be okay.

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But then I also know that those same people are emailing are human resources email address for grocery support and we have a fun where if you email ask no questions asked we will send you $100 gift card to Safeway the grocery store right now though. It's at the end of the tunnel in spite of winter and the current surgeon. We also have some vaccines now and those should be available to the public soon after that a lot of Economist including pretty sure holds say a lot of economic activity will bounce back we can start going back to offices in restaurants and bars in malls and ice cream shops in businesses bounce-back might prove to be too optimistic. Molly says she spends a lot of time these days he's looking at her financial projections and even in the very best case scenarios with a vaccine being available really soon and people able to dine indoors again. It doesn't look anything like a V.

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Recovery, I don't have a financial model that shows us back at 2019 sales until 2023.

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So I think you know it's it is not going to be a light switch. It's going to be like a slow not even very steep uphill climb back to normal and this could be the case for the rest of the economy impact the US Federal reserve's projections are not much better than Molly's the Central Bank does not expect unemployment to be back down to 2019 levels until at least 2023 and maybe not until later than that. In the meantime Molly moon is doubling down. She just ordered a bunch of really nice outdoor furniture and heaters and umbrellas for her shops. She wants to create little patio areas where people can escape the Rainy Seattle winter and enjoy a dish of ice cream.

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Is episode of the indicator was produced by Brittany Cronin with help from killing moon was fact-checked by Chantal Danya. The indicator is edited by Patty Hirsch and is a production of NPR.
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