So in any disaster or crisis, you see silver linings and good things. For years I’ve joked that my faith in humanity gets shaken almost daily, and restored every time—almost always by the end of the same day. Both in our Kalamazoo community and in the outreach from our K-House guests, my confidence and love for the goodness of humans is soaring to new heights. Your responses to my blog post “Coronavirus Honesty From a Kalamazoo B&B Innkeeper” were touching, inspiring, motivational, appreciated, and frankly, “super cool”. One thing is clear: we’re all in this thing together.
Surely I didn’t mean to scare anyone or sound too glum. Thankfully, many understood my intent to openly share was exactly as stated—yes, partly therapeutic venting, but mostly a blind transmission I hoped would help serve mutual understanding during crisis, including for the plight of many other small businesses in a similar pickle. And indeed, one reader shared it with his member of the State House. Others gained insight into what restaurants and service businesses like ours are facing with a total shutdown of the local economy, and how no amount of planning (short of extreme wealth) can cover the shock of zero bookings and zero revenue. Still others offered to come paint or help when the time comes such activity would be appropriate (with distancing even then of course). Amazing.
Your responses reinforced something else we intuitively felt. They reminded us that a historic inn and getaway destination like this is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just a building. It’s not just a place to stay. It’s not even the innkeepers. The escape cements something deeper in our psyche. The places to which we escape and recharge in life have a feel, and we are connected to experiences and contexts far greater than any individual components. They’re hard to describe, but some snippets of your kind articulations scattered herein give us a sense.
On the Business Side
There are a couple business things I do want to make clear. First, despite the challenges ahead, we’ve had no problem with returning deposit refunds—and are happy to do so if you need to cancel. In fact, we’re hopeful a substantial part of our “bank run” is over/past us. So far we had over 100 room nights cancelled. That’s a lot, but we were on the cusp of a very busy spring with lots of events in the city. A number of guests helped us by moving to a future date and thus letting us maintain their deposits. Others just converted the deposit to a gift card. Still others bought new gift cards, purchased amazing Comphy brand sheets (cheaper from us than direct), and still others bought mugs (which previously I didn’t even have on the web site for sale).
Do we have any clear path to long-term funding plan yet, if revenue doesn’t immediately return to sustainable levels (which seems unlikely)? Not a clear path, but options. A number of resources that have come into view as potential. And thanks to a generous lender who deferred our current mortgage & debt payment to give us even more room to wiggle, and some generous backstop pledges from possible outside investors and family—the bottom line is that we’re fine. I mean, there is no bottom line, but you know what I mean.
For the time being we’ve told our small staff we’re just keeping them on the payroll. Steph said early on that she didn’t care if she had to just donate money from our personal checking account, she insisted we’d look after them until the dust settled and clarity emerges at least. At first, early State of Michigan advice looked like unemployment was the play, and we could back any immediate shortfalls to staff with personal donations. A day later the FEDs said keep them on. That cemented what just seemed the right play anyway, to not change too much right now, so that’s what we’re doing.
We have also watched the CARES legislation (Division A), spent more time on conference calls that I care to think about, and are monitoring the SBA Disaster Loans (and likely to apply soon). Overall we see things changing literally daily and hourly, and think some discretion and time is well advised. We’re hunkered down for another few weeks, to gain a bit more clarity.
On the Personal Side
Finally, and still keeping it real, our simultaneous and more immediate focus is on our healthcare workers in the family. As I mentioned last time, a brother (ER doc), Steph (admissions NP), and daughter (ICU nurse) are on the front lines, and doing amazing work. Like many, our community is making PPE for healthcare workers, so they can conserve dwindling “official” stockpiles for known-risk patients, but can still be masked the rest of the day with at least something (community-made masks). My brother is a coordinator for response at their ER, and is working every waking hour. He’s also been posting on social media, and his honesty, compassion, and frank assessments inspire unity, hope, calls to action, and even a smile or two. He’s gained quite a following of locals, friends, and family. I just can’t thank and overstate my admiration for these people. As you may know, healthcare workers are at great risk, and a number of healthy professionals have already succumbed, perhaps due to the volume/repeat exposures making their illnesses worse. Please keep your local first responders and healthcare workers in mind—especially as we enter the height of the crunch in coming weeks.
On a happier note, Steph and I have found some ways to check out for a few hours, and even have some laughs. We stayed at a luxurious Bed and Breakfast last weekend while Steph was off work! Actually, I joked with her that I bought the entire place out, so we can have a special date. We got carry out from Off The Cuff Catering and walked to get carry out and a growler filled (Olde Peninsula), ate by the fireplace in the parlor, and enjoyed the sauna. And absolutely marveled at the ceiling in Room #7, the Chihuly outside the window at the KIA, and simply remembered the everyday blessings.
We couldn’t forget, but sometimes we have to pretend or try to do so. After all, we all need to care for ourselves too, to stay strong. Please do the same. Stay strong. Stay safe. And keep in touch. All our best to you.
Steve (and Steph)