Freeport businesses need help to stay open

Employee shortages in the Pretzel City put businesses in danger of closing
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT
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FREEPORT, Ill. (WIFR) - The pandemic has brought its challenges as local businesses struggle to stay open, pushing some in Freeport to potentially close their doors for good.

The struggling business owners say the issues isn’t a lack of customers but a lack of employees. As a result. these locally owned shops don’t have the staff to stay open as much as they would like.

Cynthia Faulkner opened Higher Grounds in 2004. But on June 26, the locally owned coffee shop will brew its last cup.

“It’s sad, It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Faulkner. “I have always had great staff here but people move on or they’re going back to college or going away to college or just moving on in life and I wasn’t able to find enough people soon enough to get them trained and up to speed to have an experienced staff. so kind of the writing was on the wall.”

Faulkner says that the shortage of employees pushed her decision to retire. But she’s not the only business to be impacted. Maria’s Pizza closed over a week ago for the same reason. The restaurant, which opened 30 years ago in Freeport, started with 30 employees. Earlier this year, it dropped to just 15, including the owners Frank and Adam, prior to closing temporarily.

Imperial Palace just reopened after only doing takeout orders for 14 months... a welcome change for customers.

“I think a lot of people are going to be happy to see that it’s back open. We would always get phone calls asking, ‘When are you going to open up for dine in?’” said waitress Kendra Baux.

Greater Freeport Partnership Business Engagement Director Bill Clow says city leaders are doing their best to support the locally owned shops.

“We always try to provide businesses with information and connections and resources whenever possible. That’s a very unique one on one basis.”

As Faulkner heads into retirement, she says there are no words to express what the Pretzel City means to her.

“I can’t say how much it means the support of the local community, the people that want to support locally owned business. I’m just so grateful for everyone’s support because when I started out 17 years ago, it was kind of an unknown,” said Faulkner.

While some local shops are in dire need of employees, Clow says several new businesses are opening in the area to give residents something to do in time for summer.

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