CAMPUS: Small businesses in Santa Clara survive with the help of new ideas and student support


Courtesy of Shelby Munoz

Junior Shelby Munoz (right) poses with her cousin Regi Castor as they show off their purchases from local Santa Clara Business, Second Hand Hustle.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt everyday life, many SCHS students have attempted to support local businesses, which have endureed stress, restrictions and health risks associated with staying open during COVID-19.

For two Santa Clara businesses, Tony Caters and Jiaren’s Cafe, 2020 began on a successful note. A few months into 2020, however, the world began to shut down, including stores and their sales.

“All of our business canceled,” chef and owner of Tony Caters Tony P. Santos said. “In 2020, we did a third of our normal sales.”

When the first shelter-in-place order was imposed in March 2020, many were caught off guard, but some companies had more time to prepare and adapt than others. Tony Caters was up and running several years before the pandemic, having been established in 2009, while Jiaren’s Cafe had just opened in October 2019.

“It (the beginning of the pandemic) was only about less than six months (after opening), so we were still in the process of getting familiar with the community,” Jiaren Cafe owner Jaden Zhao said. “In our case, we were really new.”

Many SCHS students noticed the difficulties their favorite businesses were facing and stepped up. For sophomore Arwen Hirsch, this meant supporting her family’s favorite food restaurants more than usual.

“We always try to find local or Asian businesses that we like to support. For years we always sat at the restaurants or walked around the areas and just supported them,” Hirsch said. “It’s just we chose to support even more through the pandemic because we know it’s hard, especially with small food businesses.”

Hirsch also noted the way her family’s purchasing habits have changed in the pandemic.

“We go to them (Yuki Sushi) more now. We usually went more as a treat, but now it’s like, ‘Oh, we are trying to support them,’” Hirsch said.

Other students support their favorite companies by bringing attention and promoting the businesses through social media.

“When Dreamy Butters would post something about their products, I put the post on my story and say, ‘Support my friend Tiffany and her business,’” junior Shelby Munoz said. “I always do my best to support them with what I have.”

Although most students have shown their support toward food establishments, others have promoted local creators and artists on social media.

“There are a lot of artists that I follow on Instagram who are located near by or around the country, or outside of the country, too, who I have been trying to support by buying some of their art,” sophomore Sahana Moogi said.

Although extra customer support helps, businesses have still had to adapt to the inevitable loss of clients. For some, this meant implementing entirely new ways of gaining profit.

“We are adding milk tea boba teas,” Zhao said. “Definitely I see the client change from there. The age group is getting younger, and new people are coming in.”

In adapting to these new changes, Zhao had a major realization about reshaping and building her business during the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, I thought you need to solve your own problems, but because of the pandemic, I realize there are things I can’t stop and I really need to ask for help,” Zhao said. “I learned how to be more open about those things.”

With customers supporting businesses currently and management over profits right now, the year 2021 for small businesses looks uncertain but potentially positive. Some businesses are trying their best to keep moving forward.

“I don’t know what the new normal is even going to be,” Santos said. “So what other choice do we have but to try?”