TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Grey Carpenter and his wife own the Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop.
“Fudge is our number one seller. Everybody comes here for the fudge, we are very famous for it,” Carpenter.
As one of the few shops on the mountain, the Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop offers a little bit of everything.
“We are kind of the only store on Mt. Lemmon and we offer all kinds of things that people look for when they come to the mountain, usually what they forgot,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said it is considered an essential business, since it operates as a grocery store as well.
“We are not allowing access to the store inside. We set up walk up service to our exterior windows. It actually works really well,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said they installed Plexiglas to help separate customers from employees.
Despite being open for business, Carpenter said it has seen a 74% decline in sales.
“It’s very scary. So much uncertainty and having no idea how long this is going to last. That is probably the worst part of it, the uncertainty about the duration,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said they were unable to pay their employees’ salaries, so they had to drastically reduce their hours.
“Since March 16, we have only been operating three days a week. During the week, the business dropped off so much that it didn’t make sense to open the doors," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said they didn’t want to let go of their six employees, so they looked into applying for a loan made available through the CARES Act.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a Small Business Administration loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.
Carpenter said he and his wife applied for the loan April 3, and it took 10 days to get the funding.
“We have it in our bank account. It came yesterday,” Carpenter said.
The SBA released it Paycheck Protection Program Report on Wednesday.
It says as of April 13, nationwide, it has approved more than one million loans for a total gross value of $247.5 billion.
In Arizona, it has approved 10,989 loans for a total value of roughly $3.5 billion.
The SBA said the overall average loan size is $239,152.
“We wanted to tell everybody right away so they are very happy to hear that. Everybody knows they have their job for a while, so it puts everybody’s mind at ease,” Carpenter said.
The Small Business Administration said a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. At least 75% of the forgiven amount must be used for payroll.
“That is huge. The size of the loan we got would be a significant extra expense per month once this is over. So if it is forgiven that is a fantastic thing,” Carpenter said.
For now, Carpenter said this loan may allow them to re-open seven days a week, with hope business may pick up.
“We are definitely seeing a larger percentage of people who are coming up the mountain to stay here for a few days, to rent a cabin. There’s a large number of people who are coming out to go to the wilderness and hike and spent some time out in the fresh, clean air, and that is a definite help for our business, but compared to a normal time period, say last year, it’s far less. The numbers just aren’t there,” Carpenter said.
Click here for a list of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program lenders located in Arizona.
Click here to learn more about the Paycheck Protection Program.