Their Life's Work: How a banquet facility, salon, food truck and Pilates instructor are adapting
Illinois has more than 1 million small businesses -- some new, some old, some family legacies, others personal dreams.
Each proprietor has a story to tell about how things have changed dramatically for them with the onset of the coronavirus, how they're adapting, how they're trying to hold it together and how their life's work hangs in the balance.
Here are profiles of four suburban small business owners in the second part of a continuing series:
The banquet hall
Cafe La Cave, a banquet hall and restaurant in Des Plaines across from the Allstate Arena, opened 44 years ago.
Randy Sutter, his brother Gus and sister Kimberly Sutter took over the family business from their mom and uncle.
Today, it stands dark.
Unlike many restaurants, Cafe La Cave is not doing carryout or delivery service.
Randy says that would not be profitable.
Sixty-five employees have gone on unemployment.
"The margins are very thin in the restaurant business," he said. "It's a very delicate business."
The banquet side of the operation is the moneymaker, but hosting events for 200 to 300 people doesn't translate to a stay-at-home order.
"This is devastating to our types of business," he said. "If this goes past May 30, it's going to be very difficult to get it back."
"My heart goes out to all the small business owners and I pray for them," he said. "And all the American people, and anyone that's sick."
-- Joe Lewnard
The normally bustling Zachary Chase Hair & Spa in Libertyville is locked and dark, every empty chair lined up with every quiet mirror.
"Most of our clients are regulars who are on a permanent calendar. They come every week," proprietor Donna Husko said.
"We are skin to skin with our clients. We are face to face all day."
While Husko waits for the day she can open the doors to the 25-year-old business again, she's engaging those clients as well as she can.
She encourages them to post photos of the "not so glamorous side" of their unkempt, grown-out roots and unpainted nails on the business' Facebook page. She and her staff reward the best with $25 gift certificates.
She's remaining positive, stocking up on all her supplies for the day when every one of her clients will be desperate to be dolled up again.
-- John Starks
Steven and Olivia Guistolise created Moonshots Stadium On Wheels in 2019 with the thought of combining baseball's greatest and most exciting attributes into one 6-by-8-foot trailer.
"We are the first baseball- themed mobile food vendor in the Chicago area," Steven said. "We sell all of the ballpark classics like hot dogs, Cracker Jack, nachos and peanuts."
The Guistolises, based in Carol Stream, had enough events booked for this year to hire a couple of employees.
"In mid-March we just thought it may take a month at most to get our events rescheduled, but now we are realizing and accepting the fact that our whole year may be shot," Steven said.
"It's a really tough time for everyone," Steven said.
"We are just trying to get creative with our situation but also make sure to be safe for our customers."
-- Brian Hill
The Pilates PT owner Rachel Miller is connecting with her physical therapy and Pilates clients through virtual appointments. She opened her Libertyville business four years ago. "Anything we can do to keep people out of urgent care, doctor offices and emergency rooms right now is important."
- Paul Valade | Staff Photographer
Rachel Miller has wanted to be a physical therapist since high school.
She's always loved science, being active and working with others.
She started practicing physical therapy and became a certified Pilates instructor, opening The Pilates PT in Libertyville four years ago.
"I love what I do. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out the root cause of someone's pain or issue, and helping them to feel better and get back to doing what they love," she said.
The physical therapy -- deemed essential by the governor's order -- is still done on site.
But she and her part-time staff have gone virtual for much of their work.
"One of the benefits is we have more flexibility than available times, so I have been working a lot more evenings and weekends as many of us now have kids at home and very different schedules than before," Miller said.
"Anything we can do to keep people out of urgent care, doctor offices and emergency rooms right now is important."
-- Paul Valade