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Black-owned local businesses face pandemic-related ups and downs

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Along University Drive is an empty building that housed The Donut Hole, a Black-owned restaurant that closed January 29 due to pandemic-related labor shortages.

“It’s a universal feeling that we’re feeling, when it comes to shortages and food cost increases,” Big Shake’s Chicken franchise owner Trey Johnson said. Johnson’s restaurant on University Drive has also faced its own setbacks.

“Number one, we have an issue of the supply of the product,” Johnson said. “One of those things being catfish, where we had to alter our menu because the price increased by almost 30 percent.”

“Inflation of supply chain has caused our business to change dramatically as well,” Johnson continued. “Of course, that affects our food costs, and overall affects our bottom line profit of how we do business. So we have to continue to be creative, and do things like spoken word and comedy night, and have entertainment as an alternative to continue to entice customers to come through our doors.”

A couple doors down in The Gallery Shopping Center is Vivi’D Boutique, specializing in trendy fashion and imported threads from all over the country. Owner Vivian Grider said her business has been spared from shortages, and hasn’t had to increase prices.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Grider said. “I talk to my vendors and I have a real close relationship with them, and I have no fear. I feel real comfortable, and I have tons of boxes (for) inventory now because I’m getting ready for the spring.”

That assurance amid inflation worries keeps customers coming, especially for Valentine’s Day Weekend.

“My honey and I are going [to dinner] so I want to put on something very simple, form-fitting and luxury,” boutique customer Star Joiner said. “And then we’re going to party, and [the boutique] offers for both. The cost of living’s gotten a little expensive during the pandemic. It’s been a struggle for a lot. Fortunately for me I have not but it’s definitely been a struggle for a lot of people.”

Despite the economic strife in the restaurant world, Johnson said it’s community support helping local Black-owned businesses survive.

“It’s just a lot of things, a lot of moving parts that are affecting us but we’ve been able to be creative enough to where we stay afloat and still render the best product that we can render at this time,” he said.

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