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Atlanta's West End small businesses fight for survival

Since the onset of COVID, almost 50 percent of minority small businesses in the West End are reported closed, and those that are open are fighting to survive.

ATLANTA — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 11Alive has been tracking the impact on small businesses.

Minority-owned small businesses in Atlanta’s West End have been hit especially hard, but many business owners are working hard to come up with innovative ways to keep the doors open there.

But since COVID-19 started spreading through metro Atlanta and Georgia, the toll on West End small business has been devastating

The West End Merchants Association says nearly 50 percent of predominately-owned African American small businesses have shut their doors, most for good.

“The newer smaller businesses have run out of all government
aid and are either closing their doors or are in the process of closing their doors," said Jayson Clifton, president of the West End Merchants Association.

And that means small business owners must be innovative and think outside the box to keep their businesses going and keep the customers coming in the front door - even with limited resources.

Tassili Ma-At, who owns the Tassili Raw Reality Restaurant, offered other small business owners some advice.

“It doesn’t matter what your business is, but if you are not focused on your customer base and being relevant to them, then what is the point of being in business,” she said.

Tassili said to use imagination and diversify what you do.

“If you are a corner liquor store maybe you want to add some fresh fruit and if you are selling soul food, maybe you should have a salad in there as well,” Tassili added.

And the owner of the Off the Hook Barbershop, Karl Booker, has added appointments to boost revenue.

“I try, myself, to support small business as much as I can to be able to help them survive, but when it comes to diversification it is definitely needed,” Booker said.

And Thomas Portis Jr. of Benjamin Moore Paints is well aware of balancing the budgets to stay in business.

“I think the best thing that you can do is to cut expenses and try not to create any new expenses,” he said.

George Andrews, director of the Unity National Bank urged his West End small business clients to use personal assets to help keep their businesses afloat.

“I think an excellent option for small business owners is to use personal assets, and I think this is an excellent time for individuals to re-mortgage their homes as rates are now at an all-time low,” Andrews said.

The goal is to keep the small business doors open and not let COVID-19 end what, in many cases, are generations of West End small business ownership.