Metro Detroit small businesses look to the future after the pandemic

Posted at 7:01 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 07:11:09-04

(WXYZ) — All week long on The Rebound Detroit, we're shining a light on metro Detroit's small businesses and the people who work tirelessly to make them successful.

It's been more than three weeks since our state's remaining COVID-related restrictions lifted, so we're exploring the hit small businesses have taken during the pandemic, what recovery is looking like now, and the road ahead.

It's been almost a month since Michigan's remaining COVID-related restrictions were lifted. Over the past year and a half we've reported on countless small businesses closing their doors, many for good; we've seen broken dreams and financial fallout from the pandemic. But we've also shared stories of innovation and people helping people.

Business owner Ronier Golightly is someone who in a sense, rewrote his business's story during the pandemic.

“If I’m going to come back during COVID, then it had to be done right," he said.

For him, doing it right meant bringing his business, Motor City Popcorn, back to the first drawing board and to the City of Detroit.

“Before COVID I was actually in Livonia in Lower Park Mall. And we had to close March 15 because of the state order. So at that time I had decided I was just going to out of business and just be done.”

But instead of closing his doors, Golightly applied for countless grants. He was approved for aid through Wayne County, Michigan Restart and others. He expanded his menu, upped his online presence, and got into delivery.

Seeing that foot traffic at the mall was slow even pre-pandemic, he also moved locations; he's now on West 7 Mile near the Avenue of Fashion.

According to the Small Business Association of Michigan, three out of four small business owners across the state report they're optimistic for the future of their business in a recent survey.

Golightly is one of those business owners, already seeing signs that this move was the right choice for him. He's expanding as more concession venues re-open, and is currently in 32 stores, Motor City Casino, and Eastern Market.

CEO of Detroit Regional Chamber Sandy Baruah said recovery timelines really depend on industry.

“Businesses that were really focused on hospitality and tourism, you know that’s going to be a little bit of a longer slog because one it’s going to take a while for people to come back into some of those venues" he said. "Secondly, the labor shortage is really hitting those kinds of businesses because they generally pay on the lower end of the scale.”

We're already seeing slow signs of recovery; crowded bars, and restaurants with long waiting lists again.

On the retail end more than half of the state's retailers, around 57 percent, think sales will continue to rise through July according to the latest Michigan Retail Index.

15 percent are expecting a sales decline and 28 percent anticipate no change.

Golightly, who had to get a second job and invest thousands of his own dollars to stay afloat, told Action News he's still grateful.

“In spite of all the deaths and the bad part about was a re-start," he said of the pandemic.