DENVER — On a Friday night inside the Edgewater Public Market, Fetien Gebre-Michael started to see more customers than she has in months.
“During the middle of the pandemic, our revenues dropped by about 80% at one point. Now, we’re only down by about 30%.” Gebre-Michael said.
Gebre-Michael co-founded Konjo Ethiopian Food back in 2008 as a way to share her culture with Coloradans.
“So ‘Konjo’ comes from the Ethiopian language of Amharic and it means ‘beautiful,'” Gebre-Michael said.
Like other small businesses Gebre-Michael has been forced to make tough decisions during the ongoing pandemic .
“We had 13 staff members and we had to lay off 10 of them, so we kind of got by with about three of us for a little bit,” Gebre-Michael said.
She said she felt hopeful after Gov. Jared Polis’ Friday press briefing where he unveiled updated vaccination phases. If things go as planned, Polis said the general public could start receiving the vaccine by late spring.
“It means that the end of April, first week in May is when it’s general public, or perhaps 40 and up or 35 and up, depending on quantities,” Polis said during the briefing.
Polis said increased vaccinations will be key to the state’s economic rebuild.
“There is strong signals that we’ve made gains to stop the spread of COVID, and pretty soon it’s time to fully open the economy,” said Jack Strauss, professor of economics at the University of Denver. “It’s going to take at least a year for small businesses to regain profitability. They’ve been borrowing a lot of money, some have been financing their liable hits through credit card spending. And if the vaccination rollout goes as hopefully expected, and most of us are vaccinated by the summer. I anticipate a surge in people wanting to go out.”
According to the latest report from U.S. Department of Commerce, personal income increased by 10% during January and consumer spending increased by 2.4%.
“Hopefully now, they [small businesses] can take some deep breaths and hang on for another three months, and so hopefully, when the summer hits, Colorado will be fully open, and we should see a fairly large increase in consumer spending in our state,” Strauss said. “The largest sector by far that has taken a hit is our hotels, ski resorts — revenue has been way down. The second sector that has been severely hurt is retail. For several months, the mall was empty. The malls are now gradually reopening, but people are still hesitant.”