Retailers and restaurants in downtown Hartford are struggling. These businesses depend on foot traffic from professionals who work in offices or attend sporting events and theaters, which are all struggling.
“We were really, really doing well, and then as soon as COVID hit, our business totally fell apart,” Jody Morneault said.
Shuttered at the beginning of the pandemic, Morneault’s clothing store, Stackpole Moore Tryon, was forced to lay off its employees. Morneault said for them, it didn’t really make sense to access the paycheck protection program.
“You close somebody's business for three and a half months, it’s almost impossible to ever get it back to where it was,” Morneault said.
She said they need the support of the government.
Without any financial help, Morneault doesn’t know how much longer she and her husband Ron can hold onto the clothing store, which has been downtown for more than 100 years.
“Our business currently, we’re only doing 10% of what we did before,” Morneault said.
“I really need your support. I really need you to help me to save my store," she continued.
She said she doesn’t know how much longer she can hold on.
Morneault said she has seen at least eight to 10 businesses that have closed downtown. She said the businesses that are still here are in bad shape.
“If this doesn’t get corrected quickly, because we've been through this now for nine months with zero help. All of us will end up losing our businesses downtown,” Morneault said.
And she’s not alone.
Dung Tran who owns Banh Meee just got rid of one of his two noodle shops.
“If you don’t go out to work, then you’re not going to eat lunch or you’re not going to eat dinner because you have more time at home, you’re going to cook at home,” Tran said.
That’s a problem for a city that thrived during the weekdays because the office buildings were full.
“We went from 100 tickets a day to 20. That’s basically the easiest way to explain what happened after COVID,” Tran said.
“You’ve got a downtown economy that depends on tens of thousands of people in office buildings, that depends on theaters, sports events, all the cultural activities that draw people in and none of that’s happening,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.
Bronin said the federal government has to offer substantial relief and it has to do it fast.
Tran remains hopeful.
“You know, once COVID is gone and everybody comes back, they’ll need more coffee shops, they’ll need a sandwich shop, they’ll need a noodle shop. They’ll need another bar,” Tran said.