Even as restrictions loosened for retail outlets across the state, business is as tentative as ever, and for some small stores, there simply isn’t enough foot traffic to sustain operations.
That’s the case for 4 The Team, an embroidery and screen printing company in St. Peter. The small business closed its doors, just off Minnesota Avenue, at the end of June, citing pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It definitely did hurt; there is no doubt about it,” owner Jay Doyscher said. “We tried a number of different ideas to make it work; I’m proud we kept all of our employees on the payroll. But the lack of foot traffic is driving small businesses, like ours, out.”
Doyscher’s business does not necessarily require a store in St. Peter, especially since he already has a storefront and operations center in Fairmont called The Visual Identity Vault. Fairmont is where the business started in 2004, and then Doyscher took over 4 The Team in St. Peter about four years ago.
The company plans on maintaining business in the St. Peter area, just not retail.
“Our business-to-business customers up here are still valuable and we still plan to serve them. It’s mainly the retail aspect over it that is not working for us anymore,” Doyscher said. “We’re getting a sales office in the Hubbard Building in Mankato. We serve St. Peter and the greater Mankato area. And then Fairmont.”
Before the pandemic started, the St. Peter location already had slower foot traffic than the Fairmont location, and Doyscher said he was never certain why. Still, though, business was sustainable until the pandemic impacted the area, and customers dried up.
“I don’t blame the customers at all. I mean, I don’t even go out shopping as much as I used to,” the owner said.
The business did seek out assistance to stay afloat over a difficult period. But the Paycheck Protection Program and a number of other programs from the federal and state governments did not work for 4 The Team, due to limitations on what businesses could access the programs.
One source of aid the business did get was from the city of St. Peter through the COVID-19 special loan program. Through that, it secured a $10,000 loan to help maintain operations. Despite the business now needing to close, the city will still allow the business to pay back via the terms of the original agreement at a minimum of $100 per month, starting in 2021.
“The program from the city of St. Peter is phenomenal; other cities should take note,” Doyscher said. “It helped us with expenses for the better part of almost two months, and I’m very grateful for that program.”
In the final days at its St. Peter location, the business held a number of significant sales, which brought in some more foot traffic and helped clear inventory. Going forward, Doyscher hopes to stay connected and working with the St. Peter community.
“We’re sad to be leaving the community; it’s a nice community,” he said. “We’ll obviously continue to service the community and the surrounding area with sales staff. It’s a little bit of a different model now; rather than having a model where they come to us, we’ll have to come to them.”