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New Canon City businesses struggle to find footing in COVID-19 economy

Businesses everywhere are hurting from COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns. However, for start ups and new businesses just looking to open their doors for the first time, they might’ve been dealt the worst hand possible.

KRDO sat down with two brand new businesses in the Canon City area to learn from their COVID-19 experience.

Both have been forced to push back their grand openings because of the pandemic. Financially, they are starting from the lowest low point they could ever imagine.

“I’m crossing my fingers that maybe this the hardest thing I’ll have to go through as a business owner,” said Boat Barn Bagel Company owner Rochelle Ratto.

Ratto has planned to open a bagel shop in downtown Canon City for nearly five years. The Boat Barn was finally set to open its doors on April 1. Then COVID-19 struck.

“I rewrote a business plan and rewrote a business plan," said Ratto. "Then I cried and yelled and set the business plan on fire.”

Since the Colorado state orders were issued back in March, the boat barn has remained closed without curbside pickup.

That's not all. The national economic shutdown caused equipment delays, their sales system remains down, and without any credit or income Ratto couldn't receive any relief loans.

“My budget was based on income that was going to start revolving at the beginning of April," said Ratto. "Since that point I’ve been carrying not only two commercial properties but also my residential property with zero income.”

It’s not just new restaurants. Shepperly Farm Petting Zoo, also in Canon City, wasn’t sure if they’d be able to open at all.

“We were concerned about people coming to our property being sick and not letting us know while touching our animals, then transmit it,” said Ashley Shepperly, the owner of the petting zoo.

Shepperly Farm was originally going to hold a grand opening for earlier this month, with live music and a bouncy house. Like so many, COVID-19 has put a stop to the 'grand' opening.

“The income we get from the petting zoo goes back to the animals," said Shepperly. "Plus a lot of our own income. For example, right now we have no extra money coming in for feed, for upgrading enclosures and vet bills.”

With the recent variance approval in Fremont County, the petting zoo will open on Saturday. However, they can only allow 10 people onto the property at a time.

Meanwhile, Boat Barn Bagel Company is set to open next week with a limited menu.

The silver lining here? Both businesses say they've got one. Ratto says her silver lining throughout this setback was learning how to bounce back.

"For me, I try to focus on what I want my story to be," said Ratto. "My story is about strength, being resilient, and using this as a learning experience."

For Shepperly, it's about Canon City and the support they've received during the difficult economic times -- especially when one of the animals needed veterinary care.

"The vet bills exceeded $3,000 dollars," said Shepperly. "The entire community and the local company Kalidescope Inspiration came together for us and created a GoFundMe. We raised nearly $3,000 for him."

Unfortunately, the animal did not survive the illness. However, Shepperly says the support she received from her neighbors and community was incredible.

"Because of them, we are continuing."

State & Regional News

Dan Beedie

Dan is a bureau reporter based out of Pueblo. Learn more about Dan here.