Small Business and Covid

Small businesses have been hit enormously by COVID Lockdowns and restrictions.

Hawkesbury residents Jerome Youkhana and his wife Sam were hit by COVID restrictions just days after their first official day of trading at their Castle Hill cafe Piccolo Spot.

“Our official first day of trading at Piccolo Spot was on March 16th 2020- a week later we were told to pack away our tables and chairs because we would no longer be able to serve dine-in due to the worsening COVID-19 situation,” said Jerome.

“The actual purchase and takeover of the business had been in the works since late 2019 before anyone would have seen this situation coming and so knowing we had just committed to this business whilst watching this pandemic evolve was incredibly daunting.

“ When they started negotiations for the business it seemed a perfect time. Jerome had accumulated over 15 years working in hospitality and had spent two years as the head Barista at an Italian restaurant in the CBD.

He and Sam had married in October 2019, bought a house in Hawkesbury and were keen to start their own business.

“I knew I wanted it to be between the Hills and the Hawkesbury as I had grown to really love these areas because of the sense of community and the amazing opportunities they offered,” said Jerome.

He says the next 19 months were a rollercoaster of highs and lows. “We were quite anxious that we had just taken this huge step at the worst time possible- newly married, a mortgage and the hopes of starting a family soon, it really was a curveball.”

He says being situated under the Spotlight store at Castle Hill, which became really busy in the first round of COVID regulations as people came to the store to buy supplies for craft, hobbies and updating their homes, was fortunate.

He says COVID 2021 was a completely different ball game.

“People couldn’t leave their LGAs, non-essential retail (meaning Spotlight) was closed and the fear about the situation seemed to intensify.

“Whilst we don’t disagree with any of the measures put in place and absolutely believe the safety and health of the community is the number 1 priority, this time round was definitely the one that hit hardest.“

“We watched all the businesses around us have to close once again but this time felt much more significant and people seemed to really be struggling with the mental fatigue of it all. Whilst we felt extremely fortunate to still be allowed to trade (takeaway) we had to question the value of doing so.

We truly only continued to trade because mentally I needed to feel that I was still actively contributing to keeping my business afloat and we wanted to look after our most amazing and loyal regular customers whose unwavering support meant the world to us.”

With his wife heavily pregnant, Jerome started working 7 days a week non-stop for 15 weeks.

A week prior to ‘Freedom Day’ the couple welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Isaiah.

“I am so grateful to be back open and be able to trade as close to normal as we have been in a long time but the impacts of COVID really are so much more far-reaching and long lasting on small business than can be imagined, speaking from personal experiences and the experiences of colleagues in the industry, “ said Jerome.

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