Business Helps Business as Lake Highlands Toy Store Fights to Stay Open

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Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic and small businesses say they're still fighting for their lives. As they do that, they're also supporting each other.

Inside the Lake Highlands toy store Missfits, you’ll find shelves stocked with joy.

But behind the colorful façade, owners Kristin and John Bemis said heartache’s been nipping at their heels for the last seven months.

"We've cut every corner. We take home no pay. We're really just trying to survive,” said Kristin Bemis.

The couple, along with business partner Veronica Flores, opened their doors just months before the pandemic brought the economy to its knees, threatening to take their little store with it.

"We applied for our paycheck protection program, and we got a third of what we were qualified for. So we were barely able to cover our one employee, Ms. Veronica's pay," said Jon Bemis.

"It didn't even last us a month,” said Kristin.

They also didn’t receive any rent assistance from their landlord.

So this week, in search of relief, the trio decided to turn to their community via GoFundMe explaining they’d “exhausted all of our personal funds.”

“It was very vulnerable to ask and to put ourselves out there in that way,” said Kristin.

Nearby at Vector Brewing, it’s a message that was met with understanding and an immediate move to help.

"We've been there. We know exactly how that feels,” said Veronica Bradley.

Bradley and her husband Craig said the community first surrounded them with support when they had trouble getting off the ground last year due to a government shutdown, then again when they finally opened mid-pandemic.

“It's a real struggle to open a business. That's why not everyone does it. You put your whole life into it. And you know the risk, but no one sees this coming. No one could see this coming,” said Bradley.

So over the next month, every 20-ounce pour of their Oktoberfest-style Vektorbrau will send a dollar to their neighbors in need.

"You know, goodwill keeps going and spreading,” said Bradley.

For both couples, it’s a lesson in making an investment in their community.

“These small businesses are the fabric of our communities. These are the people sitting next to you at the PTA meeting. This is our livelihood on the line,” said Kristin. “It just makes it so personal and so then when people help it just feels overwhelmingly humbling."

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