CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Auto repair shops had the distinct advantage of staying open for business, as a state mandated essential service, while many businesses in the state were forced to close as the Covid-19 pandemic began its assault on Ohio.
But by staying open, and subsequently watching business drop significantly, Absolute Auto may be providing a not-so-rosy picture of what the economy may look like as businesses across the state begin to reopen.
“Business is off probably 50 to 60 percent from where it was before the virus attacked,” said Shop Manager Alan Bigelow.
Before the pandemic, 60 to 65 cars rolled in and out of this repair shop a week.
Last week, the shop serviced only 29 cars.
The owners at Absolute Auto applied for and received a PPP grant from the state.
“I couldn’t afford to pay the techs, so in the big picture, yes, that’s saved this business,” Bigelow said regarding the PPP loan.
As it stands, there is not enough work for all of his techs, but due to the terms of the loan, the shop is still paying all of the employees.
The problem is that the state has been ravaged economically, and that has left thousands without jobs, some still waiting for unemployment checks that have been slow to come.
“There’s a lot of people right now that are scared to spend anything right now, because they got to make a mortgage payment, utilities, they got a family, the car’s going to have to sit right now,” Bigelow said.
Bigelow’s name may sound familiar to many in Northeast Ohio.
Bigelow was operating Dick Bigelow Chevrolet in Parma, a family dealership that had been in business for 98 years, when the economy crashed in 2007.
The auto industry was, controversially, bailed out financially, by the federal government, but General Motors still shut down more than 1,000 dealerships across the country and Bigelow Chevrolet was one of those dealerships that did not have their contract renewed.
That was a life changing moment for Bigelow and his family, but Bigelow believes, based on what he is seeing at this repair shop, that this economy is taking an ever bigger hit.
“I have some customers, I have parts waiting for them, but they haven’t got an unemployment check in a month, they haven’t got paid in a month,” Bigelow said.
For now, thanks to the state backed PPP loan, this business remains open, but the reality is they need to see people back to work and willing to spend before the money from the loan runs out.