Business owners hope hardships fade with virus

By Alexander Amster, Staff Writer

The year 2020 was hard for the world with the spread of COVID-19 putting a halt to our lives. Now a year later we may be seeing this catastrophic pandemic coming to an end, and the reopening of our states and country. With states like Texas and Alabama lifting restrictions formerly put in place, we hope to see nationwide relief and hopefully see our state Illinois, finally freed of the strange year we have all faced.

The virus first hit the U.S. on Jan. 24, 2020 when a woman returned to Chicago from a stay in Wuhan, China. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker responded to the crisis by mid-March, closing down the state’s schools, dine-in restaurants, and all social gatherings. Businesses were going bankrupt, the stock market crashed, and the world was in a state of emergency. Through all of this hardship, many companies had to do what they could to make sacrifices to maintain work and provide for their families. With 41.3 percent of businesses closed during this time, unemployment struck millions of people, and many struggled to stay on their feet, as we faced the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Local family-business owner Craig Amster, was one of the workers who was affected by the virus. “Covid has affected the business in probably every aspect from purchasing, to selling, and every spot in between,” said Amster. The business he is referring to, is Michael Christopher LTD, a private label fragrance company. They sell fragrance products, such as cologne and perfume, to different companies who then label it as their own product.

Amster had his fair share of struggles with the pandemic, like being forced into closure for some time in the beginning of 2020. “When the virus first became known and was beginning to infect people, we were mandated to shut down,”. he said They got back up and running after a few weeks, but the workplace held a different aura than it had before. New health and safety standards called for extra precautions in the workplace, and an extra step for Amster to ensure his employees are safe.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure our facility is safe [for my employees]. This could entail getting to work earlier or staying later to guarantee everything is sanitized.” Similarly, we have seen almost every company that remained open during the pandemic, using new safety precautions, like mandatory mask wearing.

When looking at the longevity of these difficult times, Amster claims: “The virus has caused issues for us both short term and long term. In the short term, everything has been affected from our ability to get components from other companies, to our manufacturing process, to selling our products to clients.”

Amster’s work depends greatly on its customers, and with many of his clients closed down, he had the opportunity to shut down sales and production, to spend some time to “rethink our processes, rebuild some machinery, and take care of some much needed maintenance.” He took advantage of the unfortunate situation and spent the time to improve on the company itself, and fight for it to continue to strive.

Now, here we are more than a year later since that first case. The country is recovering from the hard times and are hopefully rebounding back to normal. Companies have come back from closures, and every day we are seeing progress.

In the case of Amster, 2021 is looking promising, regarding getting back to a stable life for the company, and the family. “Already, we have noticed things getting back to normal,” he said. “As more people continue to follow the CDC guidelines, and more get vaccinated, we predict the 3rd quarter of 2021 returning back to levels pre-virus.” said Amster, and as the days move on, we see ourselves getting closer to what we can call normal life.

The U.S. had more than 30 million cases, and 535 thousand deaths as of late March. Americans are hoping to see a big impact following these openings of states. We hope to see these small businesses strive and come back to some normal, pre-virus, standards of living. With 2020 in the past, 2021 is looking more promising than the year before.