As the pandemic disrupts life across the globe, everyone is being forced to adapt and make sacrifices during the unprecedented crisis. None may be more affected than small businesses, with many being forced to temporarily shutter or adapt operations due to a new normal ushered in by state regulations and social distancing measures.
According to a recent study from SmartAsset, the City of Falls Church ranks third overall in best places for small businesses and more than 29 percent of City residents depend on small business income, the fifth highest figure in the state.
The News-Press has asked Falls Church area businesses to share their pandemic challenges and struggles and how the virus has affected operations and the adaptations they’ve had to make in response. Each week, we’ll be sharing their stories.
Today’s featured business: The State Theatre.
The State Theatre opened as a movie theater in 1936 and ran until 1988 when it closed with a final screening of Die Hard. In the late 90s the current owner, Thomas Carter, purchased the property and started a multi-million dollar renovation that included removing the majority of the theater seats, adding a full service kitchen and bars, creating the stage and adding band dressing rooms. In 1999, The State Theatre, as we know it today, opened.
For businesses that not only rely on social gatherings, but thrive on large ones, the coronavirus hit like a ton of bricks and felt like it happened overnight. The first weekend of March, The State Theatre enjoyed two sold out shows with Almost Queen. It was two amazing nights of music, food, drinks and dancing. A week later, as fears began to mount, we canceled shows for two weeks; a week after that, the next six weeks were canceled; and a week after that, it was three full months of shows and private events wiped off the calendar with no definitive end in sight. As anyone in this business knows, no shows mean no income.
Just four months ago we were looking ahead to a year of amazing new shows we had worked hard to bring in, a calendar full of weddings, proms and parties, and exciting new renovations just a deposit away from starting. Then we blinked. Since then, like so, so many businesses, we have shifted our focus from new ventures to making sure the bare necessities like mortgages and utilities remain current. And then there was the heartbreaking reality that our close knit staff was now suddenly without a job for an indefinite amount of time and our options on how to fix that were limited. Like many people, we’ve spent endless hours dealing with various government aid options and we also set up a Go Fund Me page to help our staff through what has become a very different life for everyone.
There really aren’t any words to describe the financial, mental and emotional toll this has taken. But it cannot go without saying that the support has been nothing less than heartwarming. Our loyal customers, staff and anonymous donors who have stepped forward to donate to our Go Fund Me effort, purchase gift cards, support our takeout efforts, and even just send emails of encouragement have been absolutely overwhelming. Seeing the outreach from the community gives me hope that while things may not be “normal” for a while, we will get back to a point where people will crave and enjoy the unforgettable live music experiences that we’ve built our business on. Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting the day we can (safely) open our doors again and invite everyone back in for some more amazing shows.
— Meredith Johnstone, COO, The State Theatre
220 N. Washington Street, Falls Church 22046, www.TheStateTheatre.com
Tell us the history of your Falls Church small business, how the virus has affected your operation and the adaptations, struggles and more you’re facing during this unprecedented crisis. Photos, along with the commentaries, are welcome and encouraged. Please send submissions, up to 500 words, to [email protected]