Small businesses face delays in assistance

People who run businesses in Barnum and Cloquet say they're struggling to get assistance from the federal government.

Customers sit in Culberts Cafe Tuesday, March 17 as the state prepares to "shelter at home" and restaurants are required to close that evening. Culberts does not offer curb side or take out food. Signs similar to this one are on almost every business in downtown Cloquet. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Business owners in Carlton County are trying to take advantage of resources to keep their businesses and employees afloat during the pandemic, but the response from officials has been delayed.

Joe and Ashley Bonniwell have owned The Chickadee Coffeehouse and Deli in Barnum since 2018. They normally employ eight people, but are down to four or five part-time employees. Business has slowed substantially since they went to take-out and curbside service, Joe Bonniwell said. Providing daily lunch to Little B's Child Care Center has helped keep their business going.

Kris Anvid, owner of the Mainstream Boutique and Community Printing in downtown Cloquet is in a similar situation. Mainstream Boutique is considered non-essential and closed immediately, while the printing business is still operating by phone or email. Anvid said she had to lay off four part-time employees, and her printing business is down 75%.

Both business owners applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as other loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), but haven't heard back. On Wednesday, April 15, the SBA reported that the PPP ran out of funds. The program was supposed to be available through June 30, 2020.

"I am outraged," Joe said. "I am not happy about this at all."


Neil Sample, Members Cooperative Credit Union vice president of commercial lending, said the majority of businesses that applied through their banks received funding from the PPP. Once a loan number has been attached, Sample said the money is earmarked for that person or business. The interest rate on PPP loans is set at 1% by the SBA.

The bank anticipates the federal government will approve additional funding for the PPP and is still accepting applications, Sample said.

Heather Culbert, owner of Culbert's Cafe in Cloquet, said her usual bank does not give small business loans. She is using a line of credit to pay bills for now and has put other bills on hold while she tries to figure it out.

“Right now I am trying to find loans,” Culbert said.

She closed the cafe when dine-in service was banned because it's more of a social gathering place for customers. She laid off six employees.

Carlton County offers assistance

Of the 39 Carlton County businesses who replied to a survey, many of them reported difficulties with unemployment, and they are worried about the upcoming due date for property tax payments. Carlton County administered the survey to gain a better understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting local businesses, which will provide direction for the county in short- and long-term recovery resources, said Brenda Nyberg, Carlton County loan/grant administrator.

Nyberg recommends local business owners visit SBA-approved lenders in the county, such as Members Cooperative Credit Union, Frandsen Bank and Trust, Woodlands National Bank and The First National Bank of Moose Lake.

The county can also offer small gap loans to qualifying businesses, she said.


A new program has also been rolled out to help self-employed people to collect unemployment, according to the Minnesota Unemployment website. Find a guide to the process online at .

For a complete list of business resources, visit or call Nyberg at 218-384-9564 for more information.

041620.N.PJ.BUSFINANCIALAID Chickadee cr .jpg
Joe and Ashley Bonniwell stand in front of The Chickadee Coffeehouse and Deli in Barnum, which they have owned for two years. Their business has drastically dropped since restaurants were ordered to close to dine in customers. The Bonniwells offer take out and curb side as well as offer a daily special. contributed by Joe and Ashley Bonniwell

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