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'It's not going to be this magical thing' | Elk Grove business owners have mixed feelings about California reopening

Debt and supply issues are ongoing obstacles for small businesses trying to recover from the last year of the pandemic.

ELK GROVE, Calif. — It’s been more than a year of uncertainty for many small businesses and as state guidelines loosen up on Tuesday, June 15th, business owners in Elk Grove have mixed expectations.

"When things magically open up tomorrow, that's not going to change what happens here in this studio," Stacey Vanlente, owner of Pinot's Palette in Elk Grove, said. "It's not going to make hundreds of people decide, or thousands of people decide, 'Hey, I've got to go to this paint and sip now because the world opened up!'"

Vanlente and her husband purchased Pinot's Pallete in September 2019. She said while there had been a lot of challenges during the pandemic, it had also been a year on reinvention. She started offering home painting kits and virtual paint classes when the pandemic hit to get by and to avoid layoffs. 

For Steve Vannatta of Vannatta Winery off Grant Line Road, outdoor tastings were the big pivot and something he said would stick around for a while. 

"We'll still have a lot of people who choose to sit outside," he said. "We're all conditioned now to keep our distance and I think that will last a while."

Hau Cam an owner at Chason’s Crab Stadium said he too would continue outdoor events and catering services. He said since California guidelines were going away, he was seeing more people making reservations for both indoor and outdoor seating.

"A lot of people are vaccinated," Cam explained. "The hospitalization rate is lower, so our guests, they're feeling a little bit confident in resuming and approaching normal life."

All three business owners said as the state loosened restrictions, it will be the customers and their individual comfort levels that will navigate how they do their business. 

Vanlente had been at 20% capacity for several months and said she would not be going to full capacity just yet. 

"We used to be able to fit 54 people in the studio all at one time," she explained. "You're elbow-to-elbow and you're painting and having a good time. It's a whole social thing and I just don't know even in the next year if that is even really going to happen."  

June 15 is a date that’s brought on some optimism for business owners, but as Vanlente put it, the struggles are not over yet. Like many businesses, there will be long-term repercussions. 

"Things now are changing and affecting every business. Our gas prices are going up, our groceries are going up, and for us, we were just informed that our canvas prices are going to quadruple," Vanlente said. "So keep your business local. Go help that little guy because we are still struggling and we’re going to be struggling for awhile. Most of these businesses, they’re going to be in debt for a long time, trying to continue surviving."

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