COVID-19 presents challenges for small-business owners

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Two business partners in vintage clothes stand outside their store.

Getup Vintage

Owners Kaylan Mitchell (left) and Lindsey Leyland of The Getup Vintage in downtown Ann Arbor.

Dixboro’s MoonWinks Cafe and Balance Massage Therapy, just outside of Ann Arbor ( (

Jessica’s Skin & Body Apothecary in Kerrytown, Ann Arbor (

On March 16, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an order to close dine-in services and most non-essential businesses including coffee shops, gyms and theaters. By March 23, Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order for all non-essential workers, causing small businesses to close their doors indefinitely. 

“If there’s a way to describe this, it feels like a slow motion car crash because you can see it coming, but you can’t do anything to stop it,” said Josie Ann Lee, owner of MoonWinks Cafe and Balance Massage Therapy

In 2008, Lee and her wife Christin Draybuck founded Balance Massage Therapy in Dixboro, Michigan. Ten years later, the couple purchased their next-door coffee shop, MoonWinks Cafe. 

“We closed down both businesses before Gov. Whitmer mandated it, because our belief is to be good citizens and good members of our community, we needed to stay home. A coffee and a massage are not worth lives right now,” said Lee.

Kaylan Mitchell and Lindsey Leyland, owners of The Getup Vintage since 2015, relied on their online Etsy store for 15% of their sales prior to their store’s closure. 

“We’re completely on Instagram and Etsy now. We’ve moved essentially all of our business to what represented 15% of our business last year,” said Mitchell. 

Throughout the past month, Washtenaw County organizations collaborated to create the Washtenaw Small Business Emergency Relief Fund. Qualifying businesses can earn grants up to $2,500 to cover their typical operating expenses or financial losses due to COVID-19. 

“Ann Arbor is the kind of community that definitely supports their specialty shops and local businesses,” said Jessica Goniea, owner of Jessica’s Skin & Body Apothecary since 2006. 

Lee, Mitchell and Goniea said the best way to support small businesses during this pandemic is to purchase online gift certificates and keep in touch via social media. 

“I would love if customers purchased e-gift certificates, because it’s a vote of confidence in our business,” Mitchell said, “For the foreseeable future, we’ll rely on loans, we’ll rely on grants and just be as lean of an operation as we can. I’m not going anywhere. We will survive this.” 

For more information visit the Washtenaw Small Business Emergency Relief Fund.

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