Alameda County recently announced their latest phase of business reopenings. Among this list are pet groomers which includes Emeryville’s All About the DOGue Salon & Spa on San Pablo Avenue. It’s been a long journey for small business owners like Lena Swann, but she’s ready ready to roll up her sleeves and get back to work rebuilding what she started.
Since the Shelter in Place order, businesses large and small have had their well-documented struggles. All About the DOGue is no exception. Swann opened the doors of her business back in 2008 amid the challenges of The Great Recession. Swann is strong, smart and resilient, so she’s fought on.
She excels in service and style, gained a loyal clientele base with many traveling from outside of the Bay Area and even one from out of state. She’s outlasted the entry of corporate pet groomer Petco into the market surviving as the only dog groomer in Emeryville.
Economic Challenges from Pandemic Shut Down
When the Shelter in Place order was implemented in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Swann was in full on “panic” mode trying to pay the pet salon’s rent, bills and keep her staff employed. Swann prides herself on being able to thrive and employ others in the community including several at risk youths. She applied and waited a long time for Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) relief. She says it was a long and confusing process since the program ran out of money before a second round of funding was approved.
Swann didn’t know what else to do so she started the GoFundMe campaign below that was well supported by the community and has raised nearly $20,000 of the targeted $25,000. This was extremely helpful, but it wasn’t enough to completely sustain her business during the long shutdown.
The rent at the pet salon is high and she’s tried to work with the landlords, a small non-profit, to try to keep the pet salon afloat. Even though she recently qualified for PPP, she says it still doesn’t feel quite right about it because she’s prided herself on not having to borrow money for any of her businesses. Swann is also applying for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance.
Black Lives Matter, Black Businesses Matter
At the end of May, most people in the community including Swann were looking forward to the economy reopening again. Businesses owners everywhere were hopeful yet desperate to reopen their doors and welcome their clients and customers back. But suddenly, Emeryville, the Bay Area and many towns and cities across the country got swept up in the collective societal demand for racial equality, justice and condemnation of police brutality. This quickly led to demonstrations, protests, activism and a clear message of what Americans are demanding. Black Lives Matter!
What tarnished the collective voice of those peacefully demanding change are groups of looters, often from out of town, descended upon the protests. This quickly escalated into chaos with the peaceful protestors being caught in the middle. Riots, massive looting, fires, violence and tear gas were heavily reported on the news across America and around the world.
When the looting started happening in Emeryville, in order to save her businesses, Swann had to act quickly. She posted handwritten signs that said “Black Owned” on all the large glass panes in her shop. She also posted a sign for her other business Swann Salon and her neighboring tenant, Marsh Interiors.
Swann believes these handwritten signs may have been what saved both businesses from being damaged and looted like other shops along San Pablo Ave. “It worked but it didn’t feel good,” Swann said.
Swann was very disheartened for being forced to self identify, and pick a side. Swann says she grew up without prejudice. Never before in her life did she have to pick a side, this tore her apart inside. She didn’t want to have to choose.
She didn’t want to alienate her diverse clientele. She didn’t want to divide our beautiful multi-cultural community. It’s been an extremely emotional week, on top of a few challenging months.
Grand Reopening Event with Free Clinic
To celebrate the reopening, All About the DOGue and local Realtor Christine Mason are teaming up to welcome everyone back. Mason is sponsoring a free nail clipping clinic this Saturday, June 13 from 11am-3pm. Call 510-653-1691 to RSVP for the free clinic. Book your appointment for a regular grooming and get $20 off, just mention the code “Christine Mason Realtor.” Sharing is caring, so enjoy $5 off when you share about this reopening on social media.
If you don’t have a pet, please consider “putting your money where your mouth is” and donating to a local Black Lives Matter chapter.