'It's A Ghost Town,' Says Small Business Owner In Area Suffering From ShutdownPlay
The federal government is fully re-opened. At least for the next three weeks as congressional negotiators try to hash out a border security agreement. And while the shutdown’s end brought some relief for more than 800,000 federal and contract workers who’d been living without pay, the lasting effects have left many workers distinctly pessimistic.
And it’s not just federal workers. It’s their families, their communities, the businesses that relied on them as well. Among those in the latter camp: Tyler Lathrop, owner of A Good Life Café and Juice Bar, which is located in Ogden, Utah, on the same block as the federal building.
About 5,000 federal employees who work for the IRS and the U.S. Forest Service work in that building in Ogden. Many of them were furloughed during the shutdown. Roughly one-third of Ogden's annual revenue comes from sales taxes, and of course that means the town are highly dependent on those incomes of the federal employees there.
As a result, the shutdown hit Ogden particularly hard.
On the mood in Ogden, Utah, since the temporary end of the shutdown
"It's the beginning of the week since it happened so we're optimistic it's going to be different than it was the past 35 days. But it has been very bleak. It's a ghost town. I'm looking outside my cafe door right now and it used to be packed at breakfast and at lunch, and it's empty. So it's been a big, big struggle. It's hit the whole town very hard. It's hit our cafe very hard. We're hoping it's going to be different now."
On what happened to A Good Life Café and Juice Bar, specifically
"The first week when the shutdown happened, I think people were still positive and on vacation mode, and it didn't seem like it was that different. And then every week since then, it dropped and it dropped and it dropped and it dropped. And we are down now, this past week we were down half of our sales. We were probably down 80 percent of our lunch base. We're a lunchtime cafe, so 80 percent of our lunch base is probably federal and forestry workers, and that completely changed. So, we're all kind of just waiting to see what's going to happen this week, and being optimistic, but I think people are preparing for it to happen again. No one's going to be going out and spending money is how we kind of feel here. But, like I said, we're hoping that that's not the case. There is an absolutely uncertainty."
"We're optimistic it's going to be different than it was the past 35 days. But it has been very bleak. It's a ghost town."Tyler Lathrop
On the profile of Ogden
"I opened up this place almost two years ago, and I love it. It's on an extremely charming street, historic 25th Street. We love it, we love this place, we love the town. I sold everything I had to move here and open, and there's a chance I could lose it. And it's for a cause that a majority of the country doesn't want. That's been very upsetting."
On what others in the town experienced over the course of the shutdown
"There's kind of two different types of people coming: the kind that are business owners, and we can talk about how it's affecting them, and how they're hanging on, and what they're doing, and the federal workers, and it's not good — everyone's concerned and worried. And then there's another side where, it's kind of interesting, people just aren't talking about it. You'll see people, and it's such a polarized topic, and it's such a divided topic, that I think some people are just afraid to mention it. Sometimes I feel like there's an elephant just walking down Main Street, and everyone wants to talk about it, but they're nervous, because you don't know what the other person is going to say and what side they're on. Then everyone's just kind of quiet. And in some ways, that's worse."
On the domino effect of the shutdown, beyond missed paychecks — including the prospect of loans, hits to credit scores and missed mortgage or health insurance payments
"It's rippled through the whole town. It was kind of a double or triple whammy, because cafes are always slow in January after Christmas. So you kind of buckle down to get through it, and then this happens. The little bit of money that you were counting on to get through the slow season gets cut in half. It's definitely hit everyone.
"About the loans, I thought that that was kind of interesting how, I think it's Wilbur Ross, made it sound like it was so easy for people to go out and get a loan. I can tell you right now I've had so many people call the cafe, put ads up, post on my social media, because somehow they found out that we possibly could need one, and if you call, the interest rates are really high, it's not something most people can do or want to do, and they're kind of taking advantage of the situation. There is no interest-free loans out there or any help like that."
"I would say it's going to take months. We're going to need, because we're kind of a spring/summer town, very outdoorsy, mountain climbing, river rafting, and we're going to have to wait for that to happen."Tyler Lathrop
On the hope for recovery
"I'm optimistic, absolutely, for that. It's a small town, we tend to pull together. I think we need to — as spring comes, it's going to get better and busier. I think it's going to get better, of course we're all still very concerned. I think everyone was even concerned before the shutdown, so we're just all trying to be optimistic and hang in there and see what happens.
"I would say it's going to take months. We're going to need, because we're kind of a spring/summer town, very outdoorsy, mountain climbing, river rafting, and we're going to have to wait for that to happen. Besides that, I think it's going to stay kind of bleak. People are kind of buckling down, don't know what's going to happen, there's an uncertainty in the air and I really hope that all changes. But that's how it feels right now. It doesn't feel any different than it did last week."
Alex Schroeder adapted this interview for the web.