Small businesses met, survived challenges during pandemic

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Cara Nadar, the owner of Strange Matter Coffee, is no stranger to the challenges that came with navigating the pandemic while simultaneously operating a business.

Millions of businesses were forced to close for months. Due to the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic, some businesses closed indefinitely.

Strange Matter Coffee co, located on Lansing’s east side, opened in 2014. 

On Monday, March 16, 2020, Strange Matter Coffee closed its doors due to rising COVID-19 cases in the state of Michigan.

“At that time we had 23 employees and I didn’t know if we would ever open again or what would happen. The hardest part was not knowing if I could pay my staff or provide them with the hours that they needed to survive,” Nadar said.

Capital One Business conducted a survey regarding U.S. small business owners. The survey collected insights from 1,000 business owners.

Nadar said that her wife’s support helped her get through this challenging time.

“Her support was incredibly helpful…I had to quickly readjust my perspective and just live in the moment, which is not a thing that I do well,” Nadar said.

Eli Jones, a supervisor at Strange Matter, remembers how he felt when he heard the news.

“I was really scared, but Cara and her wife were so helpful. They immediately helped all of us with unemployment and getting the benefits sorted out. I’ve never worked somewhere that was so transparent about things,” Jones said.

For the next year and a half, Strange Matter operated on a strict “to-go” system. The coffee shop utilized a wooden cubby with a plexiglass partition to separate the baristas from the customers.

The baristas would slide the partition up, and customers would grab their drinks and pastries from there.

“I felt safe and never uncomfortable with how we handled things. We masked throughout the thick of it. Cara and I would brew and donate large amounts of coffee for local hospitals and [Cara] even offered paid sick leave whenever anyone on staff contracted COVID.” Jones said.

In July 2021, Stranger Matter allowed customers to dine inside the shop again. 

 “I will say that I am a social person and I enjoy talking to and meeting new people, and learning about their experiences. Losing that aspect made the barista job very mundane and boring,” Jones said.

Nadar said that she felt hesitant about reopening.

“We were all very nervous and hesitant about it. My staff and I had all been very cautious throughout the year and a half that we were closed. We have a lot of staff that are very cognizant of how Covid affects them, and rightfully so, ” Nadar said.

Strange Matter’s regulars were pleased to hear that Strange Matter reopened for dine-in. Local MSU student, Kendall Scott, said that she enjoys visiting the coffee shop.

“I know that some businesses didn’t survive the pandemic, and I am glad to see that Strange Matter is still doing well,” Scott said.

Strange Matter Coffee is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are recommended when entering the coffee shop.

“I’m glad that we’re able to gain a better sense of normalcy in today’s age as we begin transitioning to whatever this new normal is,” Jones said.

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