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Small Businesses On Central, South Coasts Continue To Struggle With Coronavirus Impacts

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Thousand Oaks Automotive owner Les Forster (center) with his mechanics

The owner of a Ventura County auto repair shop is greeting a tow truck driver who stopped by to say hello.  Business is slow.  Les Forster is owner of Thousand Oaks Automotive.  It’s a small shop, with Forster and two mechanics. 

But he’s owned it for 15 years, and business had been good -- with a regular clientele.  That’s before the coronavirus crisis hit.  

Like many small Central and South Coast business owners, he's struggling with the impacts of the virus on his cash register.

Because the shop was considered essential, it never closed during the crisis. Still, business dropped by 90%.  It gradually started to improve to around half of normal.  Then when the George Floyd protest marches began locally, it dropped again.

In the auto repair shop off of Thousand Oaks Boulevard, mechanic Ernesto Parra is looking under the hood of a car.  He’s replacing a starter.  Parra is grateful for the work they have, but admits they’ve been struggling.  He says he and his family have cut back on spending.

The small auto shop did get some of federal relief funding, but it was only a temporary fix. Forster admits it’s a crisis small businesses simply couldn’t have anticipated.  Making it more complicated is that the crisis has impacted the parts supply chain, making it hard at times to get the items they need to make repairs.

Forster says he, and his team try to keep a positive attitude.  He says they know it’s important that they keep the vehicles people use to get to work, or to the doctor’s office running properly.

Business for the auto shop is now running about 50% of normal. 

Forster and his team are hoping with more parts of the community reopening, they’ll see more vehicles coming in for repairs.  And he’s hoping that they may get some additional help though a small business relief fund being established by Ventura County.