Coronavirus Impact: Napa small business owners hang on as county ponders reopening

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Phase 2 reopening from COVID-19 restrictions on Friday couldn't come fast enough for small business owners.

In Napa County and in the city proper, they say they are barely holding on.

When it appears that mannequins in downtown Napa outnumber the flesh-and-blood humans, maybe it's a sign that something is wrong.

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Or maybe those people and small business owners all moved to a Zoom room sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. "My husband came in, built shelves, masks. I have sanitizers," noted one woman in a small Zoom box.

"If big box stores can open, why not us?" asked another.

They have seen more than enough of First Street, downtown, with mostly empty sidewalks and closed signs. Flattening the curve has run out of steam here. Bottom lines no longer allow it.

"I don't blame the virus. That's a real thing," said Cathryn Becker. "I blame how we reacted to it."

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She owns Calamity Jane's boutique, which even has masks in stock, assuming she could sell them. "It is very emotional. I created this. I wanted to create this thing and now somebody has taken that away from me."

Even as Napa County prepares to partially reopen Friday, it does so with memories of how the 2014 earthquake devastated this community. Many small businesses never recovered and Vice Mayor Doris Gentry describes this pandemic as being worse. "This is far more devastating. With the earthquake we had an end to it."
While Governor Newsom did offer a ray of hope, there remains a level of frustration from small business owners, who note that all of those conditions remain beyond their control.

"Are you encouraged by what the governor said today?"

"I have to be. We need this to move forward."

Before those solitary, storefront mannequins get really lonely.

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