Column: Jay Wolz: Small-business owners feeling better about economy (3/29/21)

Although we’re not yet out of the woods, it appears the nation’s small-business owners are beginning to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel and are starting to feel more confident about their economic futures.

According to a new survey conducted earlier this month by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), only 13% of business owners say they will have to close their doors if current economic conditions don’t improve in the next six months. That’s down from 25% who said the same thing in December.

“Our small business owners here in Missouri are finally breathing a sign of relief,” commented Brad Jones, NFIB’s Missouri director, in an email about the survey.

The survey was conducted with a random sample of 20,000 NFIB members by email during the week of March 11. Results were based on 526 responses.

Among the survey’s key findings:

* Nearly three-quarters (74%) of 2020 Paycheck Protection Program borrowers have applied for loan forgiveness, with the balance saying they were not yet ready to apply for forgiveness or their lenders were not yet accepting forgiveness applications.

* Of the businesses that received a first-draw PPP loan in 2020, 42% applied for a second-round PPP loan.

* Thirty-five percent of retail business owners report their sales are back or nearly back to where they were before the pandemic, while another 23% said their sales are exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

* As more of the general population becomes eligible for vaccines, 45% of small employers say they will encourage their employees to be vaccinated and 2% say they will require vaccinations. Meanwhile, 35% say they will not get vaccinated, but that is lower than the 44% who said in December they wouldn’t be vaccinated.

Another dispensary opening doors soon

Cape Girardeau’s second medical marijuana dispensary will be opening in the near future.

Organic Remedies is “close to opening” at 350 N. Kingshighway, according Robb Hanrahan, the medical marijuana dispensary chain’s director of public relations.

The company’s Cape Girardeau dispensary is one of three Organic Remedies locations licensed in Missouri with the others planned for Sedalia and St. Louis County.

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade) reported weekly medical cannabis sales in the state hit $2.4 million for the week ending March 19, following four consecutive weeks of sales approaching, but not exceeding, $2 million.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, cumulative sales of medicinal cannabis totaled $22.2 million through mid-March.

As of a week ago, more than 90,000 Missourians, including patients and caregivers, had received their state-approved medical cannabis cards, qualifying them to make purchases at state-licensed dispensaries.

Gas prices up, but still much lower than a decade ago

Gas prices in Missouri averaged $2.67 a gallon last week, based on a survey of nearly 4,000 gasoline retailers across the state conducted by GasBuddy.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline last week was up about a penny from what it was two weeks ago, more than 27 cents above a month earlier and about 83 cents above the price for a gallon of petrol a year ago.

It was around this time last year the average price of a gallon of gas in Missouri was about $1.84. But that was in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of Americans sheltered at home and stayed off the road, helping reduce both the demand and cost of gasoline.

Although substantially higher than a year ago, gasoline prices in the state are still quite a bit lower today than they were on this date several years ago. In late March of 2011, the average price in Missouri was $3.36. By March 2012, it had risen to $3.74.

Missouri’s lowest price in March was in 2016 when a gallon averaged $1.80.

20 North Pacific gallery schedules reopening event

When Jae and Paris Newson opened 20 North Pacific, an art gallery at 20 N. Pacific St., last July, the opening went unnoticed by many because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So the gallery owners are hosting a ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m. Friday “to celebrate making it through the pandemic.” The event will also include a sneak peak of an upcoming gallery exhibition by Michael Toeniskoetter, director of Discovery Playhouse.

The gallery is unique in that it is Black owned and celebrates diversity including Black arts, culture, wellness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. It is also available for private events.

More information is available on the gallery’s Facebook page or website,

A Mexican restaurant on Broadview? Si!

It appears Don Carlos Mexican restaurant is moving to 221 S. Broadview St. in Cape Girardeau, a location formerly occupied by CiCi’s Pizza, which closed in October.

A commercial building permit was issued last week for renovations at the former pizzeria and a sign in the window of the vacant restaurant indicates a liquor license has been applied for at that location.

Don Carlos has locations at West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau, as well as in Jackson and Chaffee, Missouri.

An opening date for the Broadview Street location has not been announced.

No word on Macy’s space

As you might assume, there’s a lot of conjecture and speculation about what might become of the now vacant anchor store space at West Park Mall once occupied by Macy’s.

Originally known as Famous Barr, the store on the east end of the mall was one of the shopping center’s original retailers when the mall opened in 1981.

Macy’s closed more than a week ago following a two-month inventory liquidation sale.

When asked Friday whether any plans were in the works for the empty Macy’s space, a spokesperson for CBL Properties, the mall’s management company, told me there were “no updates at this time.”

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