Rhinebeck, New York: A new survey by Rhinebeck Responds finds that small businesses in the Village’s commercial district appear to be faring the pandemic better than small businesses elsewhere, and business owners express qualified optimism about the future. While a range of factors, including workforce layoffs, have contributed to Rhinebeck’s relative success, the survey report concludes that “the ‘secret sauce’ appears to be organized civic support.”
This second survey, conducted by Rhinebeck Responds in December 2020 and January 2021, reveals that the business climate has changed considerably from its initial survey, completed in May 2020, two months into the coronavirus pandemic. Both surveys had statistically significant return rates of over 25%.
Key findings in the latest survey include:
Among the most striking findings were that almost a quarter – a mix of restaurants, retail and service businesses – reported positive growth during the pandemic period, if only at very modest levels. However, just over half (51%) estimated their business income had declined between 25% and 90%, with 16% reporting steep declines ranging from 75 to 90 percent.
Also positively, 84% of Rhinebeck business respondents, or about five out of six, said they were not considering closing their business permanently. This is considerably better than both the national average where just 55% of small businesses anticipate they can survive for another year and New York City where one-third of small businesses estimate they will close before the end of the pandemic.
The survey also asked businesses their views on the Village government’s creative but controversial plan to increase outdoor dining and shopping between June and November with physical barricades and reduced parking spaces. More than three-fourths (79%) of responding businesses said the benefits of expanded outdoor dining and retail opportunities outweighed the impact of the parking restrictions overall. In addition, many respondents expressed gratitude for Rhinebeck Responds’ small grants and marketing efforts to date and over half called for more small grants and/or low or interest free loans.
Asked for their most urgent needs, businesses most frequently listed paying salaries, retaining employees, and rent payment. In the current survey, 54% of respondents who rent said their landlord have given them some concessions, usually for only a few months, in their rent. This figure is almost double the 28% who reported they had received rent concessions in the May 2020 survey.
Regarding their greatest concerns for the coming months, virtually all listed two interconnected fears: another Covid shutdown and not enough customers. When asked how long it will take their business to recover, over one-third (37%) said a year or less and another third (36%) said two or more years; only 6% said they don’t think they will ever recover. Surprisingly, nearly a quarter (22%) stated that they are already doing fine.
While the pandemic had clearly upended many in Rhinebeck’s small business community, the survey finds that overall Rhinebeck appears to be doing better than small businesses elsewhere. The reasons are multiple, including that tourist interest in Rhinebeck remained robust despite the pandemic; many businesses succeeded in obtaining government grants and loans; and many have belt-tightened by reducing their workforce. While small businesses across the country have taken similar steps, the survey report concludes that “the ‘secret sauce’ in Rhinebeck’s relative success appears to be organized civic support: Businesses surveyed credit the efforts by both the Village government and Rhinebeck Responds with helping them through the pandemic.”
The full report of the latest survey is available on the Rhinebeck Responds website at: https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/bzt.287.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/RR-Business-Survey-Analysis.pdf.
The full report of the May 2020 survey is available at:https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/bzt.287.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Nevarez.Analysis-RBK-Responds-Business-Survey.FINAL_.-6.15.20.pdf.
For the Rhinebeck Responds Small Business Grant Program see: https://rhinebeckresponds.org/small-grants-fund-to-aid-small-business/
For The Change Reaction 0% Loan Program at the Hebrew Free Loan Society see: https://www.tfaforms.com/4824201