"That's a good example of what the impact is," says Clarence, who with his wife Wendy Weaver, owns and operates the friendly neighborhood grocery store-deli-ice cream parlor at the corner of Church and Dodge, kitty corner from Evanston Township High School (ETHS).
"We usually do 200 to 250 people a day. Now we're doing about 25."
With Evanston under stay-at-home orders and the high school closed, foot traffic to the shop has plummeted. No hungry students stopping by for nachos with meat and cheese. No parched football players running in to grab a drink and sandwich. Older residents and others who usually come in for necessities are mostly staying home.
Still, Clarence shows up every day. He loves his customers, and the business is an essential one, selling everything from fresh food, frozen vegetables, and meats, to toilet paper and cleaning supplies. And for anyone who wants a taste of joy during these tough times, a scoop of their Homer's ice cream or a pint to take home is almost an essential too.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged families, communities, and businesses, with members of Black and brown communities hit especially hard -- with the virus itself and with the economic devastation it has caused. With dwindling revenues, Clarence is preoccupied about how he and Wendy will be able to open the store again when life resumes at a more normal pace. And in a neighborhood that's considered a food desert whose residents are mostly Black and brown and predominantly lower-income, he knows their store is needed.
Now, the Weavers are busiest on Saturdays, working with Evanston Aid, a mutual-aid volunteer group, packing and distributing hundreds of bags of free groceries to Evanston seniors and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 families who need help putting food on the table. Thanks to funding from the Evanston Community Foundation's Rapid Response Fund, the Weavers have been able to turn their store into a grocery acquisition and distribution center to help those who are most in need.
But in order to re-open for business when that time comes, they need more help. Though the couple applied for federal emergency assistance for small businesses, they did not receive it. So they're looking to the generosity of Evanston residents to help them raise the funds necessary so they can continue to serve the community.
Please donate to their GoFundMe.
I spoke to Clarence late last week (Wendy was at her full-time job as a student patient advocate at Northwestern University) about what it means to be a Black business owner, why they opened the store, how he thinks it's contributed to the community, and how Covid-19 has affected his family both personally and professionally.