Keeping Track of Small Businesses

Many small businesses are calling it quits -- but it's hard to track actual numbers. Have you heard of a small business on the Eastside that has closed? Let us know. We want to better understand how the national economics are affecting our local community.

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

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Cheery Colors for Crazy Times

Bauer Pottery owner Janek Boniecki.

Bauer Pottery owner and Silver Lake resident Janek Boniecki.

During the recent El Monte earthquake, Janek Boniecki woke up with a worry. “I wish I didn’t own a pottery company,” said the founder and president of Bauer Pottery Company. “I wish I made pillows instead.”

The Silver Lake resident was relieved to discover there was no damage to neither his showroom in Glassell Park nor in the 40,000 square-foot factory in San Bernardino that produces the pots, bowls, plates cups and vases in the distinct Southern California-style.

Boniecki, who became enamored with the vintage pottery while running a surfing business in San Diego, has been at the helm of Bauer since 1998, when he bought the trademark to the famed but defunct pottery empire. He later established a ceramic line of products based on the original patterns, forms and molds.

The "first" Bauer company was started in 1910 when Kentucky ceramist Andreas Bauer moved to Los Angeles and set up a factory in Lincoln Heights. Even though the factory closed in 1961, collectors have kept the interest alive in Bauer products, especially the colorful items created after the Great Depression that gave the company a global reputation.

They were one of the first American businesses to offer items in cheery colors, says Boniecki and "everyone just fell in love with them." He hears the same sentiment when he’s in the showroom today talking with customers about the bright happy colors.

Since the pandemic, Bauer products have skyrocketed; Boniecki estimates that currently they are ahead of last year’s sales by at least 25 percent. That’s not counting the upcoming holiday shopping season which has been historically good for business. Some of the bestselling items have been pet bowls and Bauer’s Tiki Collection (“We just finished a 1,000 piece order for Mattel”).

Today, the Bauer factory is “super busy” and finding skilled craftspeople (all items are handmade) has been difficult.

“There was a time that the ceramic industry was strong here in Southern California, but now there are just a handful of people who carry on in that tradition,” Boniecki says explaining how he’s training workers to be fluid in all phases of production.

At one point, Bauer had accounts with more than 600 outside retailers – museum shops, pet stores, etc. – but that market had been slowly eroding before the pandemic. Today, Bauer products are found in about 30 retail stores, and, while that market “is slowly coming back,” Boniecki has put more energy into creating a website and social media presence.

When the pandemic hit, Boniecki felt uneasy about the future – he sent out a letter asking for support inviting customers to a special showroom sale.

“Our business has survived 9/11 and the global financial crisis of 2007,” he wrote. “The Covid-19 pandemic is a different storm to weather.”

The thousand orders received from that special sale “kept us going those first few months,” says Boniecki. "These customers kept us going."

Poll: What color cheers you up the most?

You voted:

Biz Buzz Asks: How's Business?

We asked the question to Kitty O'Shea's Irish Imports.

How's Business Kitty O'Sheas.jpg

Kitty O'Shea's is at 4692 Eagle Rock Blvd., in Highland Park.

Latino-owned Small Businesses Can Power Up

Latino-owned small businesses can receive grants and support to keep their operations moving forward in the pandemic through a new program sponsored by Google and Ureeka that is pledging $3 million in grant funding. The PowerUp Program will award $5,000 grants paired with coaching support and resources to more than 500 eligible small businesses in California, Texas and New York. Go here for eligibility and full program details. Deadline to apply is October 14.

Tracking Business Closures on Yelp

If listings on Yelp are any indication on the state of business today in America, the facts are indeed sobering.

According to its recent Economic Impact Report, Yelp revealed that as of August 31, 163,735 businesses indicated on Yelp that they have closed because of the pandemic, a 23 percent increase since mid-July. According to Yelp data, permanent closures have reached 97,966, representing about 60 percent of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.

Overall, landscapers, contractors and lawyers are experiencing a much lower closure rate than clothing stores and home décor businesses. Auto and towing services also reported to have a relatively low closure rate as well.

On a national level, small businesses are faring better in smaller cities. Los Angeles and New York are reporting the highest number of closures, with Los Angeles witnessing 15,000 closures, half of which are permanent.  

Sharing the Load

Here’s an option for businesses to consider if a slowdown in production or services is looming.

California’s Employment Development Department suggests its Work Sharing Program, which can be a temporary alternative and can help employers minimize or eliminate layoffs while keeping trained employees and avoiding future recruiting, hiring and training.

Employees will be paid based on the standard EDD benefit rate, multiplied by the percent of hours worked (i.e. a full time employee whose hours have been reduced to 32 hours a week would receive 20 percent of the standard unemployment insurance benefit).  Go here to learn more.

Negotiate Like a Pro + Know Your Options

Sponsored by the PACE Business Development Center, two upcoming virtual workshops are designed to provide small business owners with information and resources that can help them weather the effects of the pandemic.

Negotiation with Creditors for Financial Resilience will cover financial topics, being an informed business owner, negotiation skills and more.

Disaster Loans for Small Businesses During Covid-19 will provide an overview of EIDL/PPP and LA EWDD loans as well as alternative resources in addition to reasons why some loan applications are denied and how to fix issues to be well-prepared for the next unexpected disaster.

Both workshops are free and open to small businesses. Limited space.

That’s it for this issue!

Another heat wave?! What?! OK, time to hunker down indoors with the AC! Wear your mask outside and keep supporting small businesses! We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.

-- Brenda Rees

Connect With Your Chamber of Commerce

Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce

Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce

East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Echo Park Chamber of Commerce

Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce

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