How Austin Is Helping Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus Pandemic
Fundraisers, events and small acts are helping soften the blow of economic turmoil
By Hannah J. Phillips
With the Coronavirus officially labeled a global pandemic by the World Health Organization this week, Austin is still reeling from the effects of canceling SXSW. The beloved local event brings in an estimated $365 million boost to the local economy, trickling down from the major music venues and theaters to coffee shops, restaurants and countless small businesses.
In the wake of this unprecedented cancellation, SXSW announced layoffs to a third of its full-time employees on Monday. By Tuesday, a website called ILostMyGig.com reported a collective income loss of $2,108,835. Founded to support photographers, sound engineers, freelancers and vendors impacted by the sudden loss of business, the website has curated a list of local creatives, including their estimated revenue deficit and where to send donations.
On that list is Samantha McCrary, who owns and operates Bricolage Curated Florals. With five different events cancelled next week, she estimates a total income loss of $15,000 between product orders and expected profit. A regular vendor at SXSW for the last four or five years, she says it never crossed her mind that the annual event would get cancelled.
“Ordering product ahead of time is a financial burden, and I was making a small investment so I could use them in the future,” she adds. “And then there’s the promised labor for my freelancers. I don’t pay them ahead of time, so those are now days on their calendar that they didn’t commit to someone else, and I know they’re taking a hit.”
McCrary was added to the list at ILostMyGig.com by the website’s founder, Mary Kathryn Paynter, and has been extremely encouraged by the visibility the site has given to small businesses affected by the SXSW news.
“There have been super, super kind folks who have contributed to the fund, and I am thankful for every tiny bit,” says McCrary. “At the end of the day, it’s still a really big loss, but it’s cool to see the community care and spread the word on social media.”
In addition to local events and weddings, McCrary provides weekly floral arrangements to restaurants and coffee shops like Houndstooth, which have also been negatively impacted by the loss of foot traffic this weekend and next week. Houndstooth’s downtown location in the Frost Bank building at 401 Congress normally increases their daily barista shifts from five to eleven in order to manage the influx. With locations in both Austin and Dallas, the Texas-born coffee chain pools staff from its seven cafes to support the Frost location.
“It’s always good experience for our baristas to see what a busy cafe is like, and we have a lot of fun,” says Paul Henry, who manages the four Austin locations. “We will definitely see less money next week, but I’m also curious to see how many people are still going to come because of strict Airbnb and hotel cancellation policies. We sell a legal drug, so people are going to find us.”
For locals looking to support businesses like Houndstooth, Henry hopes people won’t change their routine too much – apart from washing hands more often, of course.
“Keep going to your local coffee shops and restaurants,” he says. “Houndstooth’s goals over the next few weeks are the same as always – to provide quality beverages in a hospitable environment. Hopefully, we can be a place of refuge for anyone who may be feeling particularly stressed or worried.”
Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, issued a similar statement last week, asking Austinites to keep going to local restaurants and venues. Published on social media, the video statement also announced the launch of the Stand With Austin campaign in an effort to assist the local economy in the wake of SXSW. According to the AustinCF.org website, the campaign was “created to support nonprofits assisting individuals and small businesses most negatively impacted by the cancellation of SXSW and least able to recover on their own.”
Between offering financial assistance at ILostMyGig.com or AustinCF.org website, other groups and businesses are setting up local gigs in lieu of cancelled events.
The Red River Cultural District and other organizations and businesses in town launched Banding Together ATX to ameliorate the impact of a canceled SXSW. Besides donating to those funds and attending events, locals looking to support small business owners like McCrary can keep ordering flowers, buying gift cards for coffee shops and eating at local restaurants.
Many events are still moving forward as planned, with organizers doing what they can to support local businesses and staff who’ve already been hit hard by the cancelation of Austin’s biggest event and other effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. Here’s a list of what’s still going on around town that we’ll keep updated.