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Beleaguered local businesses welcome help in tough time

By Thor Jourgensen | March 23, 2020

For Jim Appleton, a federal business disaster loan is great news. For Sarah Narcus, an interest-payment deferral on her loans is a life saver.

Appleton and Narcus run separate businesses in different communities — Lynn and Peabody — but as event rental providers they have seen business plummet as coronavirus cancels graduations, commencements and all other mass gatherings. 

“In 40 years doing what I do, I have never seen anything like this,” said Appleton, president of Roland L. Appleton Inc. in Lynn. 

Spring normally means Appleton ramps his 15-person workforce up to 25 employees to meet warm weather event demands. Coronavirus and its social distancing precautions forced him to cut his workforce to eight employees. 

“There’s not much for them to do,” he admitted.

He applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan and said the help he will receive from it is key to his business’ survival. 

The SBA last Friday announced Massachusetts received approval for the disaster declaration statewide for small businesses and private non-profits to apply for the disaster loan program. 

Applicant businesses are directed to the SBA’s disaster guidance web page: www.sba.gov/disaster    

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications to mail in forms at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela .

Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.  

“Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31 may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza in a statement. 

Narcus runs Olio on Peabody’s Main Street with her mother, Ellen Basch, so meeting payroll is not her main coronavirus-related concern. But the pair have a $1 million loan on the historic 43 Main St. building they bought a $500,000 business loan. 

“We’re completely shut down with cancellations and postponements for every event,” Narcos said. 

Mother and daughter breathed a huge sigh of relief a week ago when they learned loan payments on the building had been deferred and the city had imposed a payment stoppage on the business loan.

“The city wants nothing more than for us to be successful,” Narcus said. 

SBA is conducting information webinars on March 23, 11 a.m., and March 24, 1 p.m. to inform businesses about the loan process and share other information. 

“The impact that the coronavirus is having on small businesses is devastating,” said Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director James M. Cowdell.

Appleton received a little good news in the past week when medical device manufacturer Medtronics rented a tent from Appleton for use as a place for employees to take breaks during the work day. 

Founded in 1927 by Appleton’s grandfather, the company has operated in several Lynn locations and prides itself on reflecting the city’s tough spirit.

Although coronavirus has impacted the wedding business, Without A Hitch, Narcus also runs, she said Olio remains a local company committed to Peabody. 

“But this is going to be really really tough for us,” she said.