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Boise bodega keeps doors open, works through paycheck loan process to get employees back to work

Like many businesses, Josh Davis’ saw a big change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He owns JD’s Bodega in Downtown Boise, which offers snacks and supplies to the downtown crowd.

But after social distancing and stay at home orders went into effect in Boise and across Idaho, business quickly fell off. More than 70% for the store on Capitol Blvd. near city hall.

In recent weeks, JD’s stayed open – one of the only stores open to customers downtown. As an essential grocery business, the store provides a lifeline to people still living and working in Boise’s core.

“I think this business adds something to the downtown coridoor and provides and aspect that makes downtown Boise unique,” Davis said.

[Downtown Boise restaurants, Treefort, others to help feed those in need, put people back to work]

But as customers quickly stopped coming downtown, business slowed dramatically. Within a few days, he laid off his entire staff, except a manager.

“That’s how quickly things devloped and changed. Then my manager looked at me and said ‘you can’t afford to keep me on either’ because business had dropped off that much.”

So for three weeks, Davis soldiered on alone. He stayed open six days per week with limited hours. Sundays, the doors closed, and Davis worked on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business.

“(I was) managing and making it through – 11-12 hour days and working seven days a week,” he said. “We do serve a lot of residents who are down here, as well as the service industry — the people who are still working. It’s what kept me motivated to keep the doors open.”

PPP loan brings employees back

But this week, the JD’s crew came back to work. Davis applied for, and qualified for a Paycheck Protection Program loan administered by the federal government. The government will forgive the loans if used for payroll and other expenses like utilities and mortgages. Davis said the process went quickly.

“I think the most stressful and hardest part was leading up to it trying to understand the language in the bill and what the details were going to be,” he said. “It was changing daily as I tried to get as much information as I could. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t some kind of loopholes so I didn’t get to the end of this thing with a bunch of new debt.”

Davis said the workers were excited to get back on the job.

“We’ve got a great set of employees here and they’re like family. They were all excited. They wanted to get back in here and help.”

Optimistic about the future

Davis said the even with the decline in customer foot traffic, folks make it worth the work.

“The amount of support and thanks that people have given us has been unreal,” he said. “I’ve had customers making us gifts and bringing them down, and bringing us prayer flags and just different things to get us through the day.”

The PPP loan provides dollars to support employees for about eight weeks.

“I’m optimistic,” Davis said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about the way the city is going about handling all this. I think they are being cautious and people staying safe is important. We have a lot of people who need economic support as well. I’m hopeful by the time the eight weeks is up that we have a lot of our services up and running and things are going a little bit better.”

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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