WEST ALLIS, Wis.-Many businesses struggling amid the pandemic can turn to federal grants and loans to stay afloat. However, some aren’t struggling enough to qualify. For that reason, customers are in jeopardy of losing one West Allis business.
The legacy of Rupena’s Fine Foods and its 96-year history rests on the shoulders of Maria Rupena.
"We want to stay here. It's three generations now," said Rupena, president of Rupena’s. "My grandpa, he came from Yugoslavia at 9, worked for a butcher until he was 17. Bought the butcher shop."
For Rupena, the weight of carrying an independent grocery story through a pandemic has grown heavy.
"State Fair was canceled. That was huge in our business. Fourth of July, people didn't want to grill. Just one thing after another," said Rupena.
Over the last year, Rupena’s catering business has also dwindled away.
"We're trying to cut costs here and cut costs there, but I will never, ever cut our quality," said Rupena.
The store may well be closed were it not for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. That $300,000 got Rupena’s caught up on rent and utilities, but the store’s future is once again in jeopardy.
"I worry every day. Every day," said Rupena.
A second round of PPP loans is available to small businesses, but not Rupena’s. Turns out the store isn’t struggling enough.
Rupena’s has seen a sales loss of 16-17% but that’s not enough to qualify for the latest round of PPP. To qualify for the forgivable loans, businesses must demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts.
"I feel in my heart and in my gut that this is wrong," said Rupena. "I have reached out to many of the lawmakers."
The office of Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) sent a letter to DC lawmakers on Rupena’s behalf, saying the "25% limit represents an unnecessarily high bar to clear for many struggling businesses."
complete story here> Longtime West Allis store in jeopardy, doesn’t qualify for PPP
story and photo credit: Fox 6 News, Milwaukee