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Cañon City turns out to support small businesses as mayor sends letter to governor Friday

The Fremont County town of Cañon City hasn't escaped the economic struggles that have affected so many small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Mayor Ashley Smith sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis, asking for more help for local merchants.

Smith said that of the businesses remaining open, most are receiving no more than 15% of their normal sales, and a recent survey found that 10% of businesses may close if the statewide stay-at-home order extends beyond May 1.

Many businesses are closed and generating no revenue at all because they aren't considered critical or essential, while big-box national chain stores are allowed to remain open.

"We need to know how our businesses can and will open," Smith wrote. "While Cañon City was on the brink of an economic boom just a month ago, we are now on the brink of seeing economic devastation..."

Smith said she wants Polis to be aware of the situation because money from a variety of financial aid programs is just starting to trickle in, or has already been exhausted.

A Holiday Inn Express being built on the east side of town is one of the few positives for its economy during the pandemic.

On Friday night, Cañon City residents gathered downtown to show support for business owners. Passing vehicles honked their horns, bystanders waved and some merchants -- whether open or closed -- turned on their store lights and distributed free hot dogs.

Some business are staying open by being creative. At the Tailored West clothing store along downtown's Main Street, employees make and sell breathing masks to add to existing merchandise.

"We actually sew on the (uniform) patches and do alterations for the Department of Corrections, and law enforcement," said manager Brianna Freda. "We've even had nurses come in with scrubs that need to be altered and hemmed. We're also making masks that are more comfortable to wear."

At nearby Classic Furniture, owner Debbie Lake said that sales of medical lift chairs -- considered essential merchandise -- has helped her stay open. The store also occasionally provides low-cost mattresses to the needy.

Up the street at Di Rito's restaurant, owner Greg Di Rito said he's holding on and thinks he'll endure the pandemic.

"I've had several business owners tell me they're leaning toward closing their doors permanently," he said. "And this situation is really hard for new businesses that are just getting established. If I was a new business right now, I wouldn't be as optimistic."

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


1 Comment

  1. Hang in there. People will have lots of money to waste once the stay at home order is lifted. You have the largest prison concentration in the US and all those workers are raking in the overtime right now with no place to spend it.

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