Hi, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Christian Linkert, I’m the owner of The Sun Emporium in Barrie. We’re a two location tanning salon who is in need of help in order to continue to survive during the COVID 19 Pandemic.
I purchased our first salon in December of 2016 after losing my job two weeks earlier. I had a friend who didn’t know I was unemployed randomly send me a text saying “Hey. Do you want a tanning salon?” and I told him no because I was recently unemployed and desperately trying to find a new job. My curiosity and ambition however got the best of me, and I went to look at it anyway. It was called “Urban Sun”. I spoke with my husband who was also self-employed, about the possibility of me going into business and he was on board. Two days later, I maxed out all of my credit cards in order to come up with the money to purchase the salon that I had decided to rename The Sun Emporium.
We spent the next two weeks through the Christmas holidays painting, cleaning, and quickly rebranding as we planned to open for business in the new year. On January 2nd 2017 at 9am, The Sun Emporium on Livingstone St. E. opened for business. I was the only employee as I had no money to be able to hire anyone else. I still vividly remember the terror I felt that morning. I did everything in my power to not break down in tears as I sat on my stool looking out the window praying someone would come in, or the phone would ring; praying I hadn’t just made the single worst mistake of my life.
I remember the radio had broken while we were cleaning, and I sat there in the silence, and as I did, the voice in my head - the voice we all have - was screaming at me how I was going to fail, what a stupid idea this was, and kept telling me what a fool I was for thinking I could do this, and that no one was ever going to come to my tanning salon.
At 10:13am on Janaury 2nd 2017 my first client walked through the door. We chatted… and at 10:14am I was able to stop holding my breath and I knew it was going to be okay. I saw 24 people that day, not a lot at all compared to today, but it was enough to shut up that voice in my head. After that day you continued to come. You brought your family, you brought your friends, and I got to know all of your names, know about your lives, and you learned about mine. Over the next 3 years our business grew and we were able to add a second location and see upwards of 550 people per day.
Then COVID came. On March 17th 2020 I posted a video letting you all know we had to close. I thought that was it. I thought it was over. I was again sitting on that stool terrified, but this time I let myself cry because I didn’t see how I could possibly get through this. Then your messages started to come…. Through Facebook, Instagram, Email, Text and more. You believed in me, you believed in what I had created with The Sun Emporium and asked what you could do to help. So with the intense out pouring of support from all of you, I pushed forward, and we pivoted and launched an online store. With that online store, combined with the salons savings and minimal government assistance, we were able to make it through the first lockdown.
We were able to reopen again in June, just in time for summer. Summer - our most fierce competitor. We had lost our prime sales months to make revenue… revenue that would normally keep us going comfortably through the summer and into our next tanning season. With COVID having already robbed us of the ability to make money during our prime season, it was now also robbing us of clients during the summer, with people obviously fearful to leave their houses even after the lockdown ended. Our traffic was half of what it was the previous year, yet our expenses still remained the same. Landlords made no concessions, banks still wanted their payments and leasing companies were not willing to assist. We managed to make it through the summer and the fall by taking on over $300,000 in loans from banks and the government, and by also dumping mine and my husband’s entire life savings into the business to keep it a float. And let me tell you, for anyone over 40, the idea of draining your entire life savings is petrifying. But this wasn’t just about me anymore, I was responsible for employing 17 incredible women, and I wasn’t going to let them down. I had laid them off once before and felt like I’d let them all down. I wasn’t going to have to let them go permanently if we went under, because I was determined we weren’t going to go under.
We made it to snow season in November, with high hopes we might possibly make it through, that we might be able to survive. I was beginning to breathe a slight sigh of relief.
Then Dec. 26th we were put into lockdown again. This time I couldn’t deal with it. I had accessed all funds, drained all savings, maxed out all credit cards and had no way to possibly make it through. A soon as lockdown started I didn’t and couldn’t get out of my bed for 8 full days. I’m even embarrassed to say that, but I was paralyzed with fear. Paralyzed by the idea of losing everything. I didn’t know how I could possibly survive once again losing revenue and laying off my staff during our busiest time.
Even as lockdown ends, by this point it had decimated my business, destroyed it financially leaving me out of options. Over the period of the nearly half a year we were in lockdown, bills still came in. Rent, loans, equipment leases, insurance, hydro, with no forgiveness or assistance from any of those creditors. During those 6 months, we paid out over $135,000…. That was $135,000 paid out during a time when we would normally make double that in revenues, easily taking care of our expenses and supporting the store. $135,000 that we needed to find somewhere. Government assistance has been given in the form of Rent Relief, however it’s nowhere near the full rent that our landlords require. That rent relief helps the landlords to get their money, and continue to earn their revenues, while leaving small businesses still without income. They still get their money via the government while small businesses continue to suffer. More assistance also came in the form of loans. Loans - not grants. Loans that again we’re expected to pay back, adding to our future expenses, and it just keeps piling up.
I employ 17 incredible women, those women earn over minimum wage. I believe in paying people what they’re worth, paying them as much of a living wage as I’m able to. So although I have received the suggestion several times to cut my teams pay, I won’t. They too are struggling and I can’t ask them to struggle more when they already work so hard for me. How my team is treated is the reason you consistently see the same faces time and time again every time you come into the salon. Because they enjoy their jobs, they enjoy working for The Sun Emporium. Those women are why The Sun Emporium has become what it is today. Not me, them.
So today I’m asking for assistance. I’m scared. I’m scared for myself, for my employees and for my husband. If The Sun Emporium loses one location, the second will also fall, leaving 17 people unemployed in total. I’m also scared because as a result, my husband will lose his hair salon since our businesses are so closely linked. Then as the chain reaction continues, we will lose our home, our car, and our lives we have worked so hard to build over our 12 years together.
I’m asking for help in any way you can help. To help us get back on our feet, to help us to continue to provide you with the best tanning and wellness services in Barrie and online. We will use the money to pay our rent, our leases, our loans, and most importantly to pay our employees. We’ll use it to give us a buffer to make it through the summer. We’ll use it to give ourselves hope again, to give ourselves the push we need to keep going, to give ourselves the safety net to make it through to next year.
I thank you so much for reading to this point. I know it was a lot, but I want to be completely transparent with you about how difficult this battle has been. I want you to truly understand what is happening in my small business, and in most small businesses in this country right now. I would ask if you’re not able to help financially as I understand we’re all struggling… at the very least, if you could share this story to your social media, share it with your friends and family. It would mean more to me than I could ever express.
Thank you for listening and thank you to everyone of you for making the past 4 years of my life the happiest I’ve ever been.
The Sun Emporium
- Lisa Smith-Baldwin
- Macri Made
- Denise Pellerin
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